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Magic has high hopes in lottery

NBA franchise needs a player to build around, but pickings seem a little slim.

Associated Press
Published May 26, 2004

ORLANDO - The Magic is due for some much-needed good luck and hopes its fortunes can change with the pick of a pingpong ball.

The NBA conducts its draft lottery tonight to determine in what order the league's worst 13 teams select draft picks June 25. Orlando has the best chance, 25 percent, of winning the top pick, providing some solace after a 61-loss season.

Orlando could fall as low as fifth to go with its two second-round picks. The expansion Charlotte Bobcats have the fourth selection.

"It sure would be a nice lift for our franchise if we come away with a win here. I think it would give us all a jolt of encouragement," said Magic senior vice president Pat Williams, who represents the team at the lottery in Secaucus, N.J.

A high pick also could mollify disgruntled superstar Tracy McGrady. The two-time scoring champion has said he'll leave as a free agent unless Orlando improves after a 21-61 season.

This is the Magic's sixth appearance in the lottery, its first since 2000. Orlando has won twice: in 1992 it picked Shaquille O'Neal, and in 1993 it traded Chris Webber to the Golden State Warriors for No. 3 selection Penny Hardaway and three first-round picks.

But the Magic's timing could be better. This draft crop doesn't have a LeBron James or a Yao Ming, a surefire star around which a team can build.

"More than any other sport, (success in) basketball is determined by a handful of special players, and there's not many of them, not enough of them, unfortunately," Williams said.

This year's not-quite-consensus projected No. 1 prospect is Connecticut center/power forward Emeka Okafor. If Okafor isn't first, the honor most likely will fall to prep power-forward Dwight Howard, especially if his hometown Atlanta Hawks win the lottery.

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