Any Bulls fan can remember his or her elation when Adam Silver, then the NBA’s deputy commissioner, tore open a large envelope on May 20, 2008, and said, “The second pick goes to the Miami Heat.”
The Bulls had cashed in the improbable.
Slotted ninth, with just a 1.7 percent chance to secure the No. 1 pick via the NBA draft lottery, the Bulls rode Lady Luck to the top pick and Derrick Rose, who became the youngest most valuable player in league history three years later.
Fred Hoiberg had a slightly different perspective.
“It stunk,” Hoiberg said, jokingly.
On Tuesday in New York, the Bulls will be back in the draft lottery for the first time since 2008. They own even worse odds to move from No. 14 to the top pick: 0.5 percent, and 1.8 percent to move into the top three.
Hoiberg knows all too well the feeling of watching a team vault unexpectedly.
Bulls fans probably can clearly recall the image of a smiling Steve Schanwald — the executive vice president of business operations who represented the team on stage in Secaucus, N.J. — his index finger aloft, posing with Silver after the franchise-changing moment (and after ESPN broadcaster Doris Burke had called him “Stan”).
But few likely recall Hoiberg stood next to Schanwald along with Heat star Dwyane Wade. The Bulls coach was representing the Timberwolves as their assistant general manager as the lottery moved to the dramatic conclusion with its final three teams.
“That was the year when it was really talked about (being) a two-man draft with Derrick and Michael Beasley,” Hoiberg said. “Seeing the Bulls move into that top three, knowing they only had a 1.7 percent chance at getting that top spot, I felt pretty comfortable getting a top-two pick.
“But then Silver said, ‘The third pick goes to the … ‘ and you could see the trees from the Minnesota Timberwolves logo coming out (of the envelope). The teddy bear and I just kind of dropped right there.”
The teddy bear served as Hoiberg’s good-luck charm, given to him by a young Timberwolves fan who had endured multiple heart surgeries. Hoiberg had met the kid as Hoiberg went through the first of his own heart procedures.
“You remember that movie ‘Ted’?” Hoiberg said. “The bear looked like that.”
Schanwald carried with him pictures from Bulls employees of their children as his good-luck charm. Wade, who had carried the Heat to an NBA title just two years earlier, never said what he used. The Heat, who drafted Beasley at No. 2, had the best odds to land the top pick at 25 percent.
Hoiberg’s Timberwolves owned a 13.8 percent chance, behind the Heat and SuperSonics, who moved from Seattle to Oklahoma City that summer and became the Thunder.
With the third pick that June, the Timberwolves selected O.J. Mayo and traded his rights with Greg Buckner, Marko Jaric and Antoine Walker to the Grizzlies for No. 5 pick Kevin Love, Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins. The Sonics drafted Russell Westbrook at No. 4.
“It was a pretty cool experience to be able to represent your team,” Hoiberg said. “It turned out to be good because (the Timberwolves) got Kevin Love and got off some long-term contract money.”
Hoiberg won’t be at Tuesday’s lottery, where Jimmy Butler will represent the Bulls on the dais and media relations official Matt Yob will witness the drawing in the backroom.
Time will tell if Lady Luck smiles on Hoiberg this time — and on the Bulls again.
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