A kick in the lotto balls

All Falls Down

On Dec. 9, 2011, the basketball world forever changed.

Chris Paul, star point guard of the New Orleans Hornets, was traded to the Los Angeles Lakers. All of a sudden, LA was ready for yet another title push. Paul would team up with Kobe Bryant, with rumors swirling that Dwight Howard, the most dominant center in the league (before he became Charmin soft) would be brought into the fold as well. The Lakers, as they had done since their inception, pulled a fast one on the rest of the league.

But not an hour later, then-NBA commissioner David Stern made an announcement: The trade had been vetoed by the league office, for what was only described as “basketball reasons.”

(It was really to avoid super teams, so I hope you got what you wanted, Stern).

Now without a response to Miami’s Big Three, and Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol knowing management had tried to move them, the Lakers made another trade, this time for Steve Nash. They figured, “Hey, the guy’s won two MVPs, maybe it’ll work” — never mind he couldn’t guard a middle schooler to save his Canadian life.

But LA was forced into a seller’s market (the league implying it wasn’t OK with the team getting significantly better can do that) and gave up way too much for the aging point guard. Two first-rounders and two second-rounders guaranteed a pretty barren draft haul over the next three years, but the Lakers, as they always do, bet on themselves. Play well, and those are bad picks anyway. Play poorly, and they’re in tailspin.

*Insert sound of helicopter careening into a quarry*

The 2012-13 team failed because of a particularly devilish concoction of egos, injuries and a truly absurd amount of sugar. All of a sudden, LA has 91 wins over the last four years (Golden State had 67 this season alone), and the fallout of the infamous Nash deal is just now nearing its final dramatic crescendo.

On May 16, 2017, the basketball world will again forever change.

Parlayed a few years because of pick protection rules, the Lakers are faced with a fairly simple trial in Tuesday’s Draft Lottery. Should the random ping-pong balls bounce their way and award them a top-three pick, the Lakers will keep it and own a mighty high selection in what’s hyped as one of the best drafts in recent memory. It has a 46.9 percent chance of happening.

Fall outside the top three? They not only lose this first-round pick, but also their 2019 first-rounder. It would set the franchise back years, and all because of the league’s meddling — and it’s officially likely to happen. 53.1 percent.

I’m, understandably, hella shook. I’m not too religious, but the ol’ G-d and I have spoken at length recently about what I’m willing to do to keep this pick. What I’ll do for first overall? That’ll stay between me and the big guy, but it’s significant.

But isn’t it kind of silly to dedicate so much of my energy on what amounts to a coin flip? With finals finally over, why must I find something else that I can’t control to stress about? While we’re told the third installment of The Trilogy™ is “good” for the league, I’m just supposed to forget that David fucked with the league’s true Goliath, and got away with it? Chris Paul has been wasted on the Clippers, Kobe wasted his last legs trying to do it all for the Lakers, and the parity that Stern so valiantly defended kicked Steven Adams in the nuts then signed Kevin Durant. There is no order.

So I ain’t gonna skress about whether the league owes the Lakers this pick (it totally does), whether Lonzo Ball or Markelle Fultz would look better in purple and gold (I feel like it’s Lonzo because it would bring out those blue eyes) or, most importantly, whether a goddamned 19 year old can pull the Lakers up from their multi-year mire of despair in the first place (strong maybe) (Sorry G-d for the curse).

Because in this league, you don’t know anything. Dynasties turn to dust in the blink of an eye, and Lady Luck (read: dumb luck) always picks her suitor — never the other way around.

Austin Isaacsohn isn’t sure who he’ll call when it all falls down. Every week, he tries to figure it out. Contact him at [email protected]