Let's be honest here (as opposed to the numbers of times we've opened with a bald-faced lie to get your attention, like referring to you as "gentle readers").
|Brandon Roy and GM Kevin Pritchard know things are looking up for Portland. (AP)|
When the Portland Trail Blazers, one of Allen's more prominent hobbies, beat the 20-1 odds and got the first pick, people in the greater Portland area rejoiced. Their descent into the deepest pits of disillusionment had fully ended, and now came the carrot that followed the stick.
In other words, Qyntel Woods has turned into Greg Oden. Or Kevin Durant.
But there was no apparent reason why the Blazers got kissed on the head except blind, deaf and dumb luck. The Blazers weren't angling for a new arena, threatening to move (at least not in the past few months) or really doing anything other than existing on the low end of the Western Conference and the far upper left corner of NBAWorld. They were so unaware of their sudden windfall that they sent Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy rather than Allen or basketball expert Kevin Pritchard to sit in the hermetically sealed tomb known as Russ Granik's Fortress of Solitude.
There were so many better conspiracy theories out there too, one for nearly every other lottery team. In other words, Portland is the only team that would have an alibi for all the lottery conspiracy freaks. Plus, after what the Blazers did last year, trading the entire draft into chaos, there is little likelihood they will do it again.
For instance, Seattle or, as we know it, Oklahoma City could have used Oden/Durant to spark ticket sales on the prairie. Or spark one last fruitless run at a new arena in Seattle, as much for laughs as anything else.
Or Atlanta could have used Oden/Durant because the Hawks are the new most moribund franchise in the league now that the Warriors defibrillated themselves back to life. They have gone from 13 to 26 to 30 wins, but all that means is going from 30th to 27th to 27th. On the other hand, Atlanta has no particularly constituency in New York and should just consider itself lucky that it didn't end up fourth, in which case its pick would have reverted to Phoenix.
Now Memphis and Boston, the teams that earned the best chances in the lottery, ended up fourth and fifth, and maybe the Grizz doesn't get the first pick because it might encourage them to hold on to Pau Gasol and rebuild what was a promising team after only a year off, in a city that has not exactly taken to them. And Boston ... well, Danny Ainge hasn't exactly inspired people to think that Oden/Durant could save what ails the Celtics.
Plus, there was no way for the conspiracistas to manufacture a way to get the first pick to the Knicks, because Isiah Thomas had already sent that pick to Chicago in the Eddy Curry trade. Besides, there is no confidence that Thomas would have done anything with Oden/Durant more involved than packaging them in a trade for Gerald Wilkins or something equally mad.
As for the other teams, Minnesota could have used a replacement for Kevin Garnett, or a reason for Garnett to relearn to love where he's at. Milwaukee would have been an odd place to build a Twin Towers thing with Oden and Andrew Bogut. Charlotte hasn't figured out how recapture its audience from the good old days. Sacramento is too far off the beaten track, and Philadelphia is a pretty amorphous place right now. New Orleans could have truly used either Oden or Durant to improve its profile and appeal in the Nearly Lost City, and the Clippers need a point guard more than they need a low block player or another Shaun Livingston.
True, most conspiracy theories would have meant some serious forcing and suspension of logic, and not all scenarios can be explained that way. But unlike last year's draft, in which Andrea Bargnani was a who's-he first pick (until you saw him and realized exactly who he was), the top choice this time is a more glittery prize, and if the NBA wanted to spice up the post-lottery analysis, they'd have found a better place than Portland.
Instead, they seem to have played it so straight this time that nobody can contrive a theory to cover their sudden good fortune. Too bad, too. Not because we have any particular animus against Portland; good for them on their newfound luck.
But without the juicy conspiracies, the draft is only going to end up being the draft, and there seems no way to change that. .. unless there's a way to invite Brady Quinn to New York again to reprise his starring role in Horton Hatches The Egg II: The Reckoning. After all, embarrassment on national TV plays in any sport.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle.