Allan Bristow brought a turkey caller to the NBA lottery as a good-luck charm, and it did the job for the Charlotte Hornets.
Now it's the Hornets' job not to take a turkey with the first pick in the June 26 draft.Bristow, Charlotte's vice president of operations, said the Hornets probably won't decide who to select until the weekend before the draft. But he admitted they have already narrowed the candidates to center Dikembe Mutombo of Georgetown, guard Kenny Anderson of Georgia Tech and forwards Larry Johnson of UNLV and Billy Owens of Syracuse.
"We'll bring these guys in for interviews, put them in uniform, maybe run up and down
the court with them," Bristow said after Sunday's lottery. "But I don't have any idea where we are leaning."
Anyone trying to read between the lines to determine the favorite might look in Owens' direction.
"We need a good big player, forward or center," Bristow said. "We need someone like Kendall Gill, only to play on the front line."
Gill, a Hornets guard who made the All-Rookie team, is a solid all-around player, a description that also fits Owens, who led Syracuse in scoring, rebounding and steals this season as a junior.
But Bristow reiterated the belief that there will be no single standout in this year's college crop.
"There's not an Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing or Magic Johnson in this draft," Bristow said. "There's no clear-cut player that will lead you to the promised land. There will certainly be guys who will be great players."
The Hornets, with the fifth-worst record in the NBA at 26-56 in the third season of their existence, won the No. 1 pick when one of their seven ping pong balls was drawn out of a bin containing 66 balls with the logos of the 11 non-playoff teams.
New Jersey, winner of the 1990 lottery, got the second pick this year, followed by Sacramento, which selected No. 1 in 1989.
Ironically, Charlotte and New Jersey finished with identical records. A coin flip before the lottery determined that the Hornets would get seven balls in the lottery bin and the Nets eight. The "weighted" lottery gives the teams with the worst records more balls in the bin and thus a better chance to win the top pick.
All 11 non-playoff teams had a chance at one of the top three picks, with those not drawn ultimately drafting in reverse order of record.
Denver, the worst team in the NBA with a 20-62 finish, did not have one of its 11 balls drawn, so the Nuggets will draft fourth.
It's a disappointment anytime you lose," Nuggets general manager Bernie Bickerstaff said. "It's not written in stone who will be gone when it's our turn. We need a solid player who can step in and contribute right away. We're going to get a good player."
After the top four picks, the lottery draft order will be Miami, Dallas, Minnesota, Washington, the Los Angeles Clippers, Orlando and Cleveland.
The Cavaliers, whose 33-49 record was the best of the non-playoff teams, had only one of 66 balls in the bin and wound up in its expected spot, 11th.
"When you consider we had a 1-in-66 chance, it's tough to get to the top unless your ball has helium in it," general manager Wayne Embry said.
Besides Owens, Johnson, Anderson and Mutombo, the top prospects are forwards Doug Smith of Missouri and Stacey Augmon of UNLV and guard Steve Smith of Michigan State.
Last year, New Jersey used the first pick to select Derrick Coleman, the eventual Rookie of the Year and former Syracuse teammate of Owens.
"Last year, because of Roy Hinson's health, drafting Coleman made more sense right away because he's a forward," Nets vice president Willis Reed said. "But this year we can do anything. We have a lot of options."
Asked if he would consider drafting Owens, Reed said, "Charlotte holds the key to that decision. But he's certainly one of the players we're looking at."
Sacramento, with a 25-57 record, has expressed a desire to pick Anderson as a point guard to complement its solid front line that includes Wayman Tisdale, Antoine Carr and Lionel Simmons.
"There's no doubt we have a point guard need," Kings director of player personnel Jerry Reynolds said in Sacramento. "Anybody who saw us play last year could tell you that. Kenny Anderson is the most talented young point guard out there. He's a guy we'll look very closely at."
Bristow created some excitement immediately after the lottery when he announced the Hornets would take a promising point guard with the first pick.
In previous years, when the No. 1 pick was clear-cut, teams would bring jerseys with the top player's name on it to the lottery.
NBA Draft Order
The order of selection for the 1991 NBA draft, to be held June 26 at Madison Square Garden in New York:
2. New Jersey
9. LA Clippers
12. New York
16. Golden State (from Philadelphia)
17. Golden State
19. Denver (from Detroit via Dallas)
22. Clippers (from Phoenix via Seattle)
23. Orlando (from San Antonio)
25. Golden State (from LA Lakers)
27. Sacramento (from Portland)
NBA Rookies list
An alaphabetical list of lottery candidates for the June 26 NBA draft:
Player Ht Year P School
Kenny Anderson 6-3 soph. G Ga. Tech
Greg Anthony 6-2 senior G UNLV
Stacey Augmon 6-8 senior F UNLV
Anderson Hunt 6-2 junior G UNLV
Larry Johnson 6-7 senior F UNLV
Rich King 7-2 senior C Nebraska
Luc Longley 7-2 senior C New Mexico
Mark Macon 6-5 senior G Temple
Dikembe Mutombo 7-2 senior C Georgetown
Billy Owens 6-9 junior F Syracuse
Doug Smith 6-10 senior F Missouri
Steve Smith 6-6 senior G Michigan St.
Brian Williams 6-11 junior C Arizona