SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) – When it comes to the NBA Draft Lottery, no one intimidates the opposition like Pat Williams of the Orlando Magic.

The senior vice president of the Magic is the king of the NBA’s annual pingpong ball event that determines the No. 1 pick and the overall order of the top 14 in the June draft.

He’ll have a chance to win another one Tuesday.

Williams and the Magic have walked away with the top pick three times since 1992, including last year when they got the right to select high school star Dwight Howard.

A lottery win in 1992 led to the selection of Shaquille O’Neal, and the one the following year led to a trade that landed Penny Hardaway.

“Most teams have a trophy case full of trophies,” Williams said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press late Monday afternoon. “We have a case filled with pingpong balls.”

If Williams were to win this year, the NBA might have to do away with the lottery at the request of the rest of the league.

Of the 1,000 potential winning combinations, the Magic (35-46) will have only seven, which is less than a one percent chance of winning.

“We’re optimistic,” Williams said. “I have never looked at myself as an intimidator but when I walk in there, everyone cowers, the white handkerchiefs come out and everyone starts mopping their brows.”

The Atlanta Hawks, who won only 13 games, will have the best chance of winning the lottery with 250 potential winning combinations. New Orleans, Charlotte, Utah, Portland, Milwaukee, Toronto, the Knicks, Golden State, the Lakers, Orlando, the Clippers and Minnesota have the next best shots, respectively.

The Bobcats got a couple of extra combinations because they have the rights to Cleveland’s pick.

Williams laughs about bringing good luck charms.

“Billy King blew everyone out of the water last year when he brought one of Smarty Jones’ horseshoes, and he ended up getting nothing,” Williams said of the Philadelphia 76ers executive decision to ride the luck of last year’s Kentucky Derby winner.

Williams hoped the NBA would let him supply the pingpong balls.

“I’ll take talent over experience,” Williams said. “We’re going with a young but talented ball.”

Kidding aside, whoever wins the 21st annual lottery at the NBA Entertainment Studios probably isn’t going to come away with a franchise maker in the mold of a Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan or LeBron James.

They will get a good player, Nets president Rod Thorn said Monday.

“If you need a big man, I think Bogut will help anyone,” Thorn said of Utah center Andrew Bogut, a 7-foot center sophomore from Australia who entered the draft early.

“If you are looking for a point, (Chris) Paul will be a pretty good NBA player,” Thorn added. “And if you need a forward, a lot of people like Marvin Williams.”

Paul of Wake Forest and Williams of national champion North Carolina also are among the list of 108 players who filed as early entry candidates for the draft, which will be held on June 28.


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