An old proverb goes like this: “Luck never gives; it only lends.”
Sometimes, it lends a hand.
Sometimes, it clenches a fist, punches you in the throat and laughs at your pain.
Well. The Jazz got punched on Tuesday night during the NBA Draft lottery, an exercise based on percentages that often defies those numerical allotments, nodding instead to some inexplicable result. How’s this for inexplicable? For the second year in a row, and the third time in four years, the Cavs got the top pick. They had a 1.7 percent chance for that this time. They butchered it last time, taking Anthony Bennett. The Fates lent them a do-over, and, if they use it to draw in a gifted prospect, they also lent the world a whole lot of speculation about whether LeBron James would ever return to Cleveland.
Asked about that first remarkable, improbable twist, Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey said: “Go figure … good for them.”
Bad for the Jazz.
Utah, which had a 10.4 percent chance to get the first selection, ended up dropping one slot from where it started, falling to fifth, a notch out of reach of what a lot of people think are the four straight-up difference-makers in the coming draft: Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, and Dante Exum.
The Jazz have suffered through this drill before. They sent Bryan Miller to the lottery on this occasion as their onscreen team rep, with club president Randy Rigby standing off camera, with half the world’s lucky charms jammed into his pockets.
Yeah, Lady Luck can be a bad mother.
She frowned away here, giving nothing and lending nothing. Lindsey noted afterward, though, that she could have punished the Jazz more severely, pushing them to six or seven, the spots taken by the Celtics and Lakers. The Jazz’s competitive futility had earned them the fourth-worst record in the league and the fourth-best position in the lottery.
“We’re ecstatic with five,” Lindsey said, as Pinocchio’s nose blew through a nearby window. “Certainly, you want to move up when that potential is there. We’ll resolve that we didn’t move up. … Now, we’ll look at all our options.”
He said the Jazz believe the fifth pick will bring a “good young player.”
Truth is, they were hoping for great.
“There’s plenty of talent from an upside standpoint,” he said. “We’ll have tons of interesting conversations.”
Those talks, he added, would include attempting to move up in the draft, moving back, or moving out completely, pursuing the Jazz’s needs from clubs eager to get into the upper reaches of the draft. He wasn’t yet sure what the real possibilities are, but he did say this: “We have a history of being able to move up in the draft. [Teams] will give us a look.”
He knows what we all know: The Jazz need a star.
They already have some nice young talent, but in order to elevate through mediocrity, through good, to legitimate contention, they have to add a top-level guy. They have to find the perch from which they can add a top-level guy. They likely got knocked off that perch, unless they offer some goods to a willing trade partner among the teams ahead of them: the Magic, the Sixers, the Bucks, and those ridiculously lucky Cavs.
You have to wonder whether the Jazz wished they’d lost a game or two more during the regular season to better their odds here. Lindsey would never admit to such a thing, and he didn’t after the results were made known. Either way, it’s on the Jazz to take what Lady Luck and the Fates so stiffly handed them - and find a different route to making it advance their rebuild.
Lindsey said after the emotion of the moment dissipated into the night on Tuesday, his mind turned away from fortune, good and bad, and toward the reality, the challenge, the business now at hand for him and his team, saying: “It quickly became, ‘This is what we’ve got.’… We’ll have to select the best option.”
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” with Spence Checketts weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM/1280 and 960 AM The Zone.