No such luck: Bobcats slip to No. 4 in draft lottery

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — General manager Rich Cho walked quietly into the Bobcats’ media room Tuesday night, sitting down at the end of the first row of chairs as if he was still digesting the name that had flashed across the screen at the fourth pick and wasn’t quite ready to be in front of the microphone just yet. President Rod Higgins followed a minute or so later, both equally despondent before walking to the podium.

The dream was the duo would be in front of the media for the second joyous presser of the evening, celebrating the Bobcats landing the top pick hours after announcing a return to the Hornets name that so many in the community had clamored for.
The reality was the name changed, but Charlotte’s snake-bitten lottery luck remained in the Queen City with the Bobcats watching the Cavs and Wizards leap over them for top-three selections.
Maybe that was the brilliance of announcing the switch hours before the picks were unveiled: Bobcats fans could take solace in the fact that at least they have the Hornets back.
It’s ironic considering the previous owners of the Hornets nickname were the ones providing the pains of a system based on bouncing ping pong balls, passing Charlotte for the top pick a year ago in a draft with only one crown jewel — Anthony Davis.
This year the draft is devoid of the no-brainer top selection like Davis, but the luck of the lottery still managed to tantalize the Bobcats with visions of the top placard.
The Bobcats had a 19.8 percent chance of going home with the No. 1 pick and a 55.8 percent shot of going home with a top 3 pick. No such luck. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards walked away with the top three picks.
That’s 10 lottery picks in 10 years for the Bobcats, none of which netted an overall No. 1 selection.
“Nah, not really,” said president of basketball operations Rod Higgins when asked if he felt snake bit. “I think you have to understand the process. Sometimes you push for something and it doesn’t always have to pan out for you. Our work is cut out for us. That’s the way it goes.”
What it means is the Bobcats are headed back to the drawing board. Instead of having their pick of the litter, they’ll have to cast a diverse lot again and hope their guy is still there when David Stern starts the clock for them.
Higgins estimated the Bobcats will bring in six or seven players for workouts starting in the first week of June.
“We’re going to try to work out as many guys as possible that make sense,” general manager Rich Cho said. “We can also try to move up, try to move back . . . a lot of different possibilities.”
The Bobcats have gone the unconventional routes that Cho speaks of in previous seasons. They traded up from the fourth pick in 2004 to the second pick to take Emeka Okafor. In 2008, they traded away the No. 8 pick for a veteran scorer in Jason Richardson. Method aside, none of the nine lottery picks in as many seasons have resulted in an All-Star selection in Charlotte.
“I think, ideally, you take the best player available,” Cho said. “My philosophy’s always been ‘draft talent, trade for need.’ So I imagine we’ll do the same this year.”
What will not factor into the selection is the Bobcats’ quest for their third coach in as many years. Higgins wouldn’t say how many people have interviewed but did say they have interviewed “quite a few people the last three weeks” and will interview a few more before tabbing their selection.
“We’re not going to rush the coaching search process,” Cho said. “We’re just trying to make the right decision, get the right guy. We’re getting there. So we’re not going to predicate our pick on the coaching search.”
What’s obvious is Higgins and Cho have their work cut out for them, and any new coach will arrive with a laundry list of offseason needs to address.
“I think we have a number of needs. We could use help up front. We need some help rebounding. We could use another big (man). We could use some shooting, and we could use some overall depth,” Cho said.
The needs are evident. But there’s also hope in the form of three lottery picks under the age of 22 and another one arriving soon. There’s hope in the form of a new coach, and a largely new roster with seven players from last year’s team on expiring contracts and a host of freed salary cap space.
And there’s hope in a name that brings back memories of a packed Hive and playoff basketball in this city.
That’s a lot more than Cho and Higgins were able to say after walking away with a disappointing lottery ball at this time a year ago.
“I wouldn’t say it was gut-wrenching,” Higgins said of again watching another team have their name called last. “You never know what can happen. When we started out at two, a couple teams moved up, and it is just part of the process, you just have to move forward.”