NBA lottery day definitely worth noting

 
 
Updated 5/17/2011 8:13 AM

Tonight is the NBA draft lottery, which every year should be a local holiday around Chicago.

Keep kids home from school. Grill out in the back yard. Fly the flag, go to church, and generally give thanks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Call it Derrick Rose NBA Lottery Day.

Three years ago this week the Bulls went down to the corner convenience story, bought a ticket, and essentially won a trip to this year's Eastern Conference finals.

A direct line can be drawn from the Bulls' current playoff run back to May 22, 2008, when they had a 1.7 percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall choice in the following month's draft.

The chances were so remote, in fact, that they were only mildly interested in the drawing.

"I was home, upstairs in the bedroom doing something else," executive vice president/basketball operations John Paxson recalled Monday in the Berto Center.

His wife and sons were downstairs watching the lottery on television when …

"Midway through the show I heard screams," Paxson said. "I went downstairs and knew we had a top-three pick. Once the second envelope was opened and it was Miami, I knew we had the first pick."

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Paxson immediately phoned Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, and they shared their shock. Then he contacted assistant Gar Forman, now the club's general manager, and director of college scouting Matt Lloyd.

Still, what seems obvious now didn't seem so obvious then. The Bulls' decision-makers weren't sure whom they would select.

Rose was a great player and a Chicago product. But for much of the season Kansas State's Michael Beasley was considered the favorite to go No. 1 overall.

"The next day we got together," Paxson says, "and (by then) our instinct was that Derrick was our guy."

Even then the Bulls had to go through the process of evaluating the candidates.

"When we had a chance to meet Derrick we saw what everybody recognizes now," Paxson says. "He was a humble kid, but he had something inside that is unique to the great players."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Three seasons later that humble, unique point guard is the league's MVP, and he has the Bulls within 3 victories of the NBA Finals.

"There's no question that luck plays a big part," Paxson says of getting Rose, "but then you have to make the right decision."

The Bulls did by picking Rose, already a superstar. Miami's consolation was Beasley, so far a bust. Yet both teams are in the East finals.

So how would this have turned out if the Heat picked first and took Rose while the Bulls picked second and took Beasley?

Would Rose have led the Heat to this point in the playoffs? Would LeBron James and Chris Bosh have signed with the Bulls as free agents last summer? Would the teams still be meeting for the conference title but with reversed rosters?

"Who knows?" Paxson says. "It's impossible to answer."

As it is, the Bulls couldn't be happier than to have Derrick Rose as the face of their franchise for the next decade.

Paxson says with a smile when asked whether he reflects much on that night in 2008, "A lot. You think back to that moment and realize now what it meant."

It means that no one could blame Bulls fans for taking today off and celebrating the good fortune of May 22, 2008.

mimrem@dailyherald.com