2010 NBA Draft Lottery Quotes: Ted Leonsis, Ed Stefanski, David Kahn

2010 NBA Draft Lottery Quotes: Ted Leonsis, Ed Stefanski, David Kahn
May 19, 2010, 08:49 am
Quotes from representatives of the Washington Wizards, Philadelphia 76ers and Minnesota Timberwolves following the unveiling of the results of the 2010 NBA draft lottery.

Ted Leonsis, Washington Wizards

Q: They say sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good …

It really is better to be lucky than good. It was wonderful to have Mrs. Pollin up there. I was being sincere, I said we are going to get the first round pick because Abe is up there his wife is here, it’s been a wonderful transition and it’s the right thing to do.

Q: You said earlier that you were going to do right by this organization; you were going to work hard. The first day you own this team you get the No. 1 pick in the draft. It’s like deja vu all over again …

It’s a comforting feeling to know you can build around the draft. And now we are blessed. I am sure Ernie and the staff will do the right thing and do the right research. It gives us hope and that’s really what you want, you know especially with the transition into new ownership, you are trying to pay homage to the past but you are trying to do the right thing by the fanbase. What better way to announce that there is a rebuild that is going to happen and you are going to compete and build playoff caliber teams than to have the number one pick.

Q: What does this feel like?

It feels like a new day with a breath of fresh air. It gives us a great opportunity to get off on the right foot. I am really excited about that the NBA has to offer and I really believe that we will work passionately and with a lot of dedication to build a championship caliber team.

Q: John Wall is the consensus, everyone believes he is the No.1 pick. Is he the #1 pick? How will you go about doing the research to make that decision by June 24?

Well it’s up to the scouts and Ernie and the coach. The good news is there seems to be a consensus around the No. 1 pick. But things change, they have to work out, they have to do their interviews and they have to stay healthy. You can see how deep the draft is so we are going to do fine. I think it’s a great day.

Q: You said earlier you want to add picks. You’re not willing to give up this pick, are you?

We won’t be giving up the first pick. I think we still … I love young players and I think building around a core of young players is the way to go. If we can do something and add another first round pick than let’s go at it.

Q: Take me through your mindset when you heard you leapfrogged into the top three:

I was very, very calm. I just thought that this franchise deserved a break and that we were going to get a very high pick. I thought that if we could get into the top five we would be in great shape. The top five players in this draft all have great talent. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the first player is going to be the best player, but now we have that option and we get to choose who we want. It also gives the fanbase and everyone back in Washington D.C watching, knowing that we are starting off on the right foot and with fresh air and good luck.

Q: That could be a heck of a duo with Gilbert Arenas and John Wall. Or if you decided to go a different route with a different player. Just talk about how exciting it’s going to be down in Washington.

Washington is a basketball city and we have seen with the hockey team how great a first pick is, especially if he is of a worldly talent like Alex Ovechkin, I am sure we are going to get a player like that, that we can build a team around, in the Washington Wizards regard. And we are young, so we have a good horizon. Just getting one player isn’t enough this is a lot of hard work. I think we have to draft well, we have to develop well, we have to use our cap space the right way. It’s not going to be easy but we are all in it together and this is a great way to kick it off.

Ed Stefanski, Philadelphia 76ers
President & General Manager

Q: In a year with such disappointment, what does it feel like to get the No. 2 pick?
Ed Stefanski:
Well, we’ve had a rough year and as I said, it’s great for the fans. We went through a tough year, but what I saw myself when I was looking up there, I saw Jrue Holiday sitting there and that’s a pretty good point guard. Everyone in this room was saying what a good year Jrue had and now we have a chance to put someone else with him with the number two pick in the draft plus the players we have here. As I said over and over, I don’t think we played up to our talent level last year. We have to prove it and this will only help us.

Q: I guess you won’t have a problem getting guys to come in on (draft) visits?
Ed Stefanski:
I don’t think we’ll need a lot of visits.

Jrue Holiday, Philadelphia 76ers

Q: Who would you take with the No. 2 overall pick?
Jrue Holiday:
I kind of need a wing to play with so Evan Turner would be nice. At the same time John Wall is a great player and athletic. He’s real up and down just like our style of game. One of those two I project.

Q: What’s one thing that in your second year in the league you’ll be able to capitalize on?
Jrue Holiday:
I think being more comfortable with the game and with my teammates with that. I know going into the second half of the year I really cut down on turnovers and had more assists.

Q: What do you know about Evan Turner, his game, and do you know him at all?
Jrue Holiday:
I’ve seen him play just from on TV, I don’t really know him. He’s very tall and very athletic. Can really work on his jump shot, but I mean he’s a wing player, somebody who gets out there, locks up on defense and can handle the ball. I think it’s a perfect fit.

Q: It kind of gives you guys a dimension that you didn’t have last year, right?
Jrue Holiday:
Most definitely. I think with that and then move Andre (Iguodala) to the three we have a lot more ability just to score. We will have lot more scoring power.

David Kahn, Minnesota Timberwolves
President, Basketball Operations

Q: On watching Ricky Rubio play in Europe.

He looked good. He’s only 19, for God’s sakes, so he has room for improvement. He really had, from what I can see, he had a really good year. He grew physically and I think he really had to grow emotionally and mentally because he had to step on to a really good team and fit in, and then after fitting in he had to become the leader and the point guard. He did it beautifully. I am very pleased with his development and I think there will be a day in the future where we look forward to welcoming him in a Timberwolves uniform.

Q: Would you still play him if he’s not going to be ...

I don’t think so because his club team spent 5.3 million U.S. for the rights to give the buyout. The way the contract treads, the first time he can be bought out is after the second year. You can make the argument that where we are in our development, maybe this is for the best. As I said last summer, it will take five to seven years before we know what was best. But looking back on this past year, I say it was probably better for us and better for him that he spent this past year in Barcelona.

Q: Donnie Walsh is a special person to you and he’s in the spotlight now with Lebron. What do you think about the Knicks now?

Donnie will always be a special person in my career, I just visited with him Friday. I made a point of stopping by his office to tell him he’s not getting Rubio (laughter). That’s a lot of pressure and I feel for him. I think he did exactly what he set out to do and what he needed to do but now that he’s done it, I just hope the pressure doesn’t become too overwhelming because so much is riding on it. Having said that, there is pressure on all of us, especially those of us that are tying to regroup or rebuild, whatever you want to call it.

Q: Do you have cap space?
Yeah, we have about $15 million.

Q: Which is a little lower than the Mavs …
Depending on what other trick is up my sleeve. And I just saved a few bucks here.

Q: So could you be a factor in …
Absolutely. My prediction is that this is going to be the summer of the sign and trade. I think there will be a ton of sign and trades out there and what’s important when you’re signing and trading is that you have to have something to trade.

David Stern

COMMISSIONER STERN: It's a really exciting time of year for us. It's the Lottery, the Draft, and our playoffs. It doesn't get any better than the best basketball in the world being played now, together with the sort of annual rite of passage and renewal that the Draft represents. And the Lottery is the first step in the Draft.

So I always enjoy coming here, even though Mike Bass promised that the machinery was going to be off. I'll be happy to answer any questions you have if you can hear me.

Q: There's going to be change in ownership from your longest tenured owner in Mr. Pollin to Ted Leonsis. Could you talk about your relationship with both, and maybe what you've talked with Mr. Leonsis about going through the Draft?

COMMISSIONER STERN: I guess what I would say is that I knew Abe Pollin since the time I began working in the league. That places it in about 1966, '67. He's actually the only owner who was here before I was. We got to be quite close and had a very warm relationship.

I got to know Ted when he bought both the hockey team and the important minority interest. We've been in touch over the years often. He's often come to our Tech Summit and been a speaker. And I'm a great admirer of what he's done with the Washington Capitals. And I know they effectively lead the NHL in attendance. They have a very important season ticket base.

And I'm sure that his organization will bring those skills to bear. As I said to the Pollin family, it was a sad day and a glad day that they're finally selling the club; that it was sad for historical reasons, but I was glad that it was in such strong hands as Ted Leonsis and Lincoln Holdings.

And we had a meeting today. We interviewed Ted with an ownership group to make sure it could pass muster. I enjoy that, too. It's always great fun.

Q: You mentioned at the Board of Governor's meeting that there was some discussion of things that might replace the Lottery or possibly a play in tournament. How serious are all these alternate ideas, how seriously were they considered and would you handicap their chances of ever becoming reality?

COMMISSIONER STERN: I guess what I would say Joe Litvin gave a long report, which I didn't find that funny since he was using footage of old lotteries to make his point. But it was a full briefing to the governors, and there did not seem to be any appetite for a change at this time.

So I just there was a discussion of the play in. It couldn't happen except as a result of a change in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. So that gives us an opportunity, in discussions with the governors, to see what the level of appetite is for that. And that will be an ongoing discussion, both at the competition committee, which was to some measure less enthusiastic than the governors, and I think that the idea will be further vetted to see whether there's a good idea that we can come up with.

Q: The idea of the Lottery is to address tanking. Is tanking an issue that needs to be addressed, or is it addressed well enough already?

COMMISSIONER STERN: I think it's addressed well enough already. I think the results of the Lottery, if anything, are causing teams with the worst record to feel as though a paucity of wins is not being adequately recognized and compensated. So for us, it works well. It's taking care of the main reason for which it was enacted.

Q: Commissioner, obviously the question is about Mikhail Prokhorov. Very unchartered waters for NBA to have a foreign owner, especially considering the scarcity of Russian players in the NBA. What are some concerns and opportunities that you can see in this?

COMMISSIONER STERN: The most important concern I have is to decide what we should call him. In the motherland he's Mikhail. But in the United States.

Q: Demetrovich?

COMMISSIONER STERN: He's Michael. He's told us to call him Michael. We've called him Michael and Mike. And we have no concerns whatever. We had a good meeting today, one of many, with Michael and his group of advisors.

He seems most anxious to get to work to improve the performance of the team on and off the court. And he's most anxious to learn about our collective bargaining proposals, about the issues that affect us like revenue sharing, about what he can say and what he shouldn't say, and also about the development of basketball in Russia.

We had some very good discussions about that. He's very interested, really, in a development of a class of basketball. Doesn't relate to NBA elite level players but really about the way the game is or could be played at the collegiate level in Russia at a relatively low level, but to develop the kinds of activities that are healthy for college students to engage in.

And also to help us with respect to how we will increase our activities and operations in Russia as we get ready to hire somebody in Russia.

Q: Along those lines about the Nets, what do you expect from the franchise moving to the new building in Newark, and is there anything that the city of Newark can prove that it's a fit home long term for a team?

COMMISSIONER STERN: You know, all I can say is that we know it's a first class building. The city has been very welcoming. We have an excellent relationship with the mayor who I think is a terrific mayor, who we've met with on more than one occasion.

We expect the building to show very well and the city to show well for the Nets and for the NBA. But we don't have any expectations right now beyond making sure that as many fans go to the Prudential Center as much as possible to watch the New Jersey Nets.

Q: You mentioned, Commissioner, the Lottery and the Draft and the playoffs, but not LeBron James. Everyone is talking about. What would you view LeBron as overshadowing so much of the NBA right now?

COMMISSIONER STERN: It actually shows the importance, I guess, to the culture that that's a subject of some discussion that will continue to be heated as we head to July 1 and beyond. That just shows what a fixture the NBA has become, and that the comings and goings of our players have become stories unto themselves. I think, on balance, it's pretty good that fans are so interested as to what teams we subject to improvement and what teams we'll not.

Q: How does the league, in reference to LeBron, go about monitoring the recruiting process? For a while it was getting a little out of hand; you put in some restrictions. But how do you monitor what teams shower upon the players they're trying to impress?

COMMISSIONER STERN: Like what? What restrictions are you talking about?

Q: Certain number of people that they can fly out with them, things like that, or can teams do whatever they want?

COMMISSIONER STERN: After July 1? I'm not aware I'm sure there are. And Joel Litvin and the entire legal department will probably tell me what I'm doing wrong.

But come July 1, just about everything goes. Before July 1, nothing goes. I suppose if the governor wants to sing a song to the tune of "We Are the World" or New York Magazine wants to do a cover with LeBron in a Knick uniform, the last time I looked, my jurisdiction had its limitations and it doesn't include those two instances. So it's kind of interesting and some fun.

Me, I'd rather watch the Lakers Suns and Celtics Magic.

Q: In the past, in sports, we've seen owners have the ability at times to elevate a losing franchise with the power of their personality and charisma. Just from what you know about Prokhorov, is he the he kind of person who can conceivably do that?


Q: Why not?

COMMISSIONER STERN: He's going to do it by hard work and good management. That's what does it. He's going to do by maybe by drafting a good player that comes out of the Lottery and the Draft; by surrounding that player with other good players; by making sure that people understand that he's committed to the entertainment experience at the Prudential Center, to commodious reception for Nets fans; and by selling tickets and sponsorships and suites and club seats and the kinds of things that distinguish successful franchises from unsuccessful franchises.

And from that perspective and it helps it helps when people have a sense, fans, consumers and the like, that there's a presence that is committed to all of the things I mentioned. And I think people will be persuaded that Michael is committed to that, and that in itself will help those sales. And players enjoy, believe it or not, playing in full houses, playing in sponsored situations, and playing for a team that they think has a bright future. And I think he brings all of those to the Nets.

Q: Recently you said you thought LeBron would stay in Cleveland and you hoped he would stay in Cleveland. Things have changed. They were a little bit early.

COMMISSIONER STERN: You can play that back to me, but that wasn't what I meant to say. But maybe I said it. I don't think I said I hoped I guess what I'm saying is I grew up in this league with a Collective Bargaining Agreement that was tilted in favor of the incumbent team being able to sign the player. They could sign him to more money for more years, which gave them the edge. And that followed our belief that it was a good thing to have the continuity that a player being identified with the home team for his career gave you.

But the players bargain hard for the right to, at some point, when they become free agents, to make decisions that are based on their own personal, either economic or family or geographic concerns, and that's where it comes to meet. And it may well be that those desires will triumph with all of our free agents, or they won't. We'll have to see.

Q: What's your gut telling you about the situation then?


Q: Commissioner, now that Gilbert Arenas has completed his legal process, what do you see for him going forward?

COMMISSIONER STERN: I see him working hard in the community. I see him getting in shape. I spoke to him last week. I think he might have put on a couple of pounds. He's going to work it off.

And he's going to come back as a very successful member of the Wizards, and he's going to work hard to use his experience to talk to others and demonstrate that, you know, there is such a thing as making a mistake, owning up to it and moving on from there.

Q: You've been doing this job for years. Have you ever stepped back and said how much longer do I want to do this?


Q: How long?

COMMISSIONER STERN: I'm not going to say. But the thought I have stepped back. And what I will say is that I really consider myself lucky. I have a job that I enjoy. I enjoy coming to the office, particularly I enjoy working with the people who make the league look good.

And I enjoy the additional growth and challenges, whether it's the digital opportunities presented by NBA TV and and NBA League Pass, and NBA Wireless, or the global opportunities by meeting with Michael and having one of his staff interview our candidate of ours for a Moscow office or next week interviewing, I hope, the final interview for our managing director of India.

This business changes all the time. And at the same time what doesn't change, is the most fun, the game that's at the heart of it that drives it all, is being played at a very high level, with more international players coming in and making our sport even better. It's a pretty good job.

I have thought about it. I think about it I've thought about it every two or three years for the last 26. But so far so good.

Q: You've said you kind of hoped the playoffs would not be overshadowed by this free agency thing. You kind of seemed frustrated about the number of questions you're getting about it.

COMMISSIONER STERN: I'm not. I've learned to live with it and actually enjoy it. I mean, some of the when I saw the governor's song in Cleveland, in Ohio, and then Mayor Bloomberg's playing no favorites in his responses, talking about the Knicks and Brooklyn, I said, okay, this is beyond me.

And at the same time the ratings that that last Cleveland game got, being off the charts, and even the ratings we're getting with respect to TNT and ESPN, are leading all networks, not just cable networks. So that tells us that our sport, the core, is very attractive. And the sales of tickets in franchises that all these free agents may or may not go to are going up.

So we're going to have a heck of a year next year. And that's it. I'm no longer frustrated. I'm in the moment. We're having a great playoffs. We'll have a great Finals. We'll have a really interesting Draft. And then, Katie bar the door, in July, songs, banners, balloons, blimps, armies. I don't even know what. I'm just going to hide in the office and let it all roll out.

But it's actually a tribute to our players and the way they've captured the imagination of our fans, additional fans; how skilled they are and how the sense is that their change of teams can make a meaningful difference to life in another city. Okay. Have a good evening and enjoy the Lottery.

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