NEW YORK — Pat Williams is pretty good at being lucky, and he's got a hunch.
"I got a funny feeling that this could be another Magic year, here. For some reason, I've just got the feel," he said.
Orlando sure could use it.
Following a difficult first season after trading away Dwight Howard, the Magic are hoping Williams can bring them more lottery luck.
Armed with the best odds and their three-time winner back on stage, the Magic will try to jump-start the rebuilding process Tuesday night by landing the rights to the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.
Williams has won four times, including victories in 1992, '93 and 2004 with the Magic. They used the most recent one to draft Howard, and no team since has entered with the best odds and won the lottery.
The Magic were back in the lottery the next two years but were busy playing in the postseason every spring since until this one, when they finished an NBA-worst 20-62 after sending Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers last August in a four-team deal.
That gives them a 25 percent chance at winning the rights to choose first in a draft that appears uncertain. Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel is considered the top choice, though he could miss the first two months of the season while recovering from a torn ACL.
Williams, the longtime team executive, thinks a victory would give the Magic and their fans a boost.
"And obviously, to be in that first slot, it gives you lots of flexibility," he said. "Even in a year like this when there a lot of uncertainties with the draft — there doesn't appear to be a franchise turner, but there are lots of good players in this draft who will have NBA careers. But if we could pull off a win here, it would give our city just a big lift and after a tough year that would be more than welcome."
Williams, in good spirits and saying he feels well 21/2 years after being diagnosed with blood cancer, jokes about his lottery history. The Magic celebrate it, with pingpong balls in their trophy case.
He's been so good that the NBA was forced to change the lottery process after Orlando's second victory. The Magic won the 1992 lottery and picked Shaquille O'Neal, then barely missed the playoffs in his rookie season. Yet they won again with just one pingpong ball out of 66, swapping the rights to Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway. Starting with the 1994 lottery, the NBA tweaked the system to give the worst team an even better chance to win.
The biggest loser now has 250 chances out of 1,000 but keeps coming up empty. The Charlotte Bobcats had the worst winning percentage in NBA history last season but slipped to No. 2, missing their shot at Anthony Davis.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company