Los Angeles Lakers coach Byron Scott smiles as the studio begins to fill before the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
NEW YORK — The people shifted in their seats as each ping pong ball dropped out of the machine. Every number that they heard either increased their excitement or lifted their anxiety. Very few people spoke, at least loudly enough to hear, as they heard the results.
But the uncomfortable silence and the nervous twitches these people showed throughout this process revealed just how much remained at stake. Well before the NBA Draft Lottery took place on live television Tuesday night, a handful of team representatives, league officials, media members and an independent accounting firm watched the actual proceedings in a private room here at the New York Hilton Midtown about 90 minutes earlier.
There, all participants could not bring any electronic devices to share the news. Officials forced everyone to put their cell phones in an enclosed envelope to avoid anyone from tweeting, texting or sharing the news publicly or privately. No one could leave the room, either, so that the 14 other NBA draft representatives, including Lakers coach Byron Scott, could learn the results nearly 90 minutes later just like everyone else.
The setting already featured enough drama for the Lakers, who could have faced something just as devastating as their 21-61 record in the 2014-15 campaign in what marked the franchise’s worst record in its 67-year-old history. The Lakers also had a 17.2 percent chance of landing with the sixth or seventh pick, forcing the Lakers to trade it to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash deal with the Phoenix Suns in 2012. Instead, something more joyous happened for the Lakers as they landed with the No. 2 pick.
Two men sat side by side that added spice to this development. John Black, the Lakers vice president of public relations, sat on the left side of a table covered in black cloth. Brad Shron, the 76ers’ executive vice president and general counsel, sat on the right. The seating arrangement strictly spoke to the NBA standings, with the Lakers boasting the fourth-worst record and the Sixers slightly ahead with the third-worst mark at 18-64. But this coincidence produced a memorable exchange that captured the Lakers’ overall relief.
“Sorry,” Black said to Shron with a grin. “You’re not getting the pick.”
Shortly after Black breathed a sigh of relief over four ping-pong balls bouncing the Lakers’ way, the Sixers receiving a decent consolation with the third overall pick. Before all that happened, the select members in the room witnessed how the NBA draft order unfolded.