Inside Knicks’ edgy lottery party: Zion Williamson grief and hope
They chanted and screamed for an hour, hoping their vocal chords could somehow translate into NBA draft lottery luck.
They chanted, “We Want Zion” and “14 percent” and “Let’s Go Knicks.” Slattery’s Midtown Pub in Manhattan sounded like the Garden used to sound this time of year, when the Knicks were fighting for championships, not pingpong balls.
The jammed bar reached a crescendo when the Lakers were announced with the fourth pick — meaning the Knicks had one of the top three picks. The chants only grew louder.
“We Want Zion!”
“We Want Zion!”
Then, once the third pick was revealed, they went quiet. Groans filled the place. The bar went as silent a library and quickly began to empty as the Pelicans landed the coveted top choice.
The Knicks didn’t win the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. They have to settle for the third pick and likely RJ Barrett, Williamson’s one-and-done Duke running mate most considered the top prospect in this year’s class prior to the college basketball season, or Ja Morant, the uber-athletic point guard from Murray State.
“I’m pissed. This was it,” Gabriel Weintraub of Brooklyn said. “I’ve been looking forward to May 14. It has been circled on my calendar. I’ve been writing in my group chat every day about it with my friends. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say I’ve been losing sleep over it. So I’m pissed.”
Afterward, as fans left the bar, they wore the look of disappointment, going from the belief they would get to see Williamson in a Knicks jersey to being crushed to miss out on the player some experts believe is a generational talent.
But they also took solace in landing the third pick. The Knicks, after all, could easily have finished with the fifth selection — they had a 14 percent chance to get No. 1 and a 47.9 percent chance to fall to fifth — in what most consider a three-player draft. And now they also have a very strong trade chip to bargain with the Pelicans for disgruntled star Anthony Davis.
“I’m upset, but honestly, I can come out of here content,” Jack Reese from Long Island said. “It could be worse. They could’ve ended up with five. As long as the Lakers or Mavericks didn’t end with the pick ahead of us, I’m fine. Once we are secured with [Kevin Durant] and Kyrie [Irving], we need to ship this away for AD.”
“Heartbroken, thought we had it,” Shawn Samuel of The Bronx added. “But there’s good players. If you look at last year’s draft, best players [Luca Doncic and Trae Young] were three and five. There might be somebody that comes out of this better than Zion. I’ll take Barrett. I’ll take Jarrett Culver, a low-key like Rui Hachimura from Gonzaga. We wanted Zion, because we’ve been waiting for something great to happen for the Knicks for a long time, and we thought tonight was going to be that night.
“You never know. Blessings come in disguise. Zion might be Sam Bowie, bro. We don’t know.”
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