Without any disrespect to Blake Griffin, who would have been everyone's choice with the No.1 pick in last summer's draft, the announcement that he was undergoing season-ending knee surgery reminded me of the local Draft Lottery festivities at Chris Webber's old restaurant in Natomas, and as they say, how you just never know. Joe and Gavin Maloof were immensely disappointed that night because the Kings - who had the worst record in the league - lost the battle of the ping pong balls, finishing with the No.4 pick. The ultimate indignity - or so it was thought at the time - was that the Clippers won the Lottery and the right to draft Griffin, a bruising power forward out of Oklahoma.
As it turns out, though, Griffin is the second of the Clippers' No.1 picks to sustain a season-ending injury in his rookie season. I covered the Clips when Danny Manning tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Milwaukee in 1988 after playing only 26 games, and he was never the same. He was hampered by knee problems throughout a productive, but not exceptional career. The hope here is that Griffin recovers completely and escapes the curse of the Clips, though one has to wonder. Donald Sterling's club has experienced two winning seasons in 30 years. TWO winning seasons in 30 years! Once again, the distinction belongs to Larry Brown, as brilliant a coach as he is a drama queen.
The Kings? You think Geoff Petrie and the Maloofs aren't thinking that, finally, after the devastating Webber injury and its debilitating impact on the franchise, that the basketball gods aren't gazing favorably on Sacramento? Not only is Griffin ailing, but Tyreke Evans was on the draft board only because Memphis selected Hasheem Thabeet, Oklahoma City took James Harden, and Petrie and Paul Westphal made the wise decision to draft the gifted Evans instead of Jonny Flynn, Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings or Ricky Rubio, despite the club's obvious need for a true point guard and a charismatic personaltiy/player to boost ticket sales. There is no such thing as a Comeback Executive of the Year award, but if there were, Petrie is the leading candidate. Evans. Omri Casspi. Jon Brockman. And why do I suspect he's going to pull off one of his infamous trades by the Feb. 18 deadline? Sometimes you just have to ride the wave ....
Overheard at Arco Arena
This wasn't my line, but it was pretty good, so I'll share it. With Spencer Hawes, Francisco Garcia, Kenny Thomas and Evans seated in the front row during Urijah Faber's WEC mixed martial arts fight against Raphael Assuncao last Sunday, someone mentioned that the WEC demographic is dominated by males, aged 18-34 ... and Gavin Maloof. It was true. And hilarious. The Kings co-owner is a huge fan, and he went nuts when Faber, who has become a close friend, won by submission in the third round. Maloof told me later that the Kings are planning a Urijah Faber night, probably in February. Asked why his brother Joe wasn't in attendance, Gavin frowned. Seems Joe likes the sport ... from a distance. True to the demographics, matriarch Colleen Maloof can't even deal with the spectacle on television.
One more thing ...
With Griffin sidelined until next season, Evans will be the Rookie of the Year, barring some unforeseen development. That would be a wonderful accomplishment, but historically, not all the significant. Many a ROY has failed to fulfill expectations. That won't be Evans, the gifted 20-year-old who physically is a smaller version of LeBron James, but it's all in the books. More on that in the future.