Well, what do you know? We’ve got drama in late May for the dwindling ranks of Celtics Nation.

Our stomachs are in knots. Our fingers are tapping the desk. Our legs are pumping up and down. By 8:30 this evening, our mouths will be dry and our teeth clenched.

These were once the unmistakable signs of the NBA playoffs around here. We waited with nervous anticipation as some combination of the Hawks, Knicks, Bucks, Pistons, Rockets or Lakers lined up to prevent the dynasty from sending another banner to the rafters.

These are all symptoms of draft lottery fever now, and Celtic fans are swigging the Pepto today knowing all too well that they’re just as likely to get sicker as cured.

Ten years ago, the Celtics had two chances in the lottery and a 36 percent chance at the top pick. Tim Duncan was the prize. The Celtics were so sure that they’d win the prize that they told M.L. Carr to tank the season. Rick Pitino was so sure the Celtics would win the prize that he gave up his throne in Kentucky to claim it.

Instead, the San Antonio Spurs, whose 21 percent stake in the first pick came courtesy a freak injury to David Robinson, won the lottery. Duncan has led them to three championships since, and the Celtics’ title drought has extended into its third decade.

The Spurs are out of the lottery this time, though it’s little solace to Celtic fans knowing that Duncan is about to win his fourth championship. Boston has just one spot in the lottery and a 19.9 percent chance at the top slot this time. But there are also two first prizes this time, Greg Oden and Kevin Durant.

A lot is riding on this lottery for the Celtics and their fans. Oden and Durant aren’t just stud NBA prospects to us. One of them will change the face of the Boston Celtics. One of them will make us relevant again. Either one will allow us believe the luck of the green has turned once again, that the run of misfortune that started with Len Bias’ death in 1986 and continued with Red Auerbach’s death before last season will be over.

If David Stern pulls the Celtic logo from an envelope before the second pick tonight, it will be another twist of the knife. It will be like the groundhog forecasting 10 more years of mediocrity for what was once the greatest franchise in basketball.

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m starting to feel really sick now.


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