SECAUCUS, N.J. — With a lucky charm from the franchise's best days, the Washington Wizards won the NBA's draft lottery Tuesday night.
Washington moved up from the No. 5 spot to earn the top pick in next month's draft, when it will likely choose between Kentucky freshman John Wall and national player of the year Evan Turner of Ohio State.
The Philadelphia 76ers, another disappointment this season, moved up from the sixth spot to grab the No. 2 pick. The New Jersey Nets continued the run of failure by teams with the best chance of winning, falling to the third.
The Wizards were represented by Irene Pollin, who wore the 1978 Bullets championship ring of her late husband, longtime owner Abe Pollin. When the Wizards pulled off the surprising win, Irene Pollin's jaw dropped and appeared to mouth 'Oh my God!!' with wide eyes.
Abe Pollin died at age 85 in November.
"My husband wanted another (championship) so badly," she said. "He really did. So maybe this will be the beginning of another one."
The lottery victory is just about the only thing that has gone right in a disastrous year for the Wizards, marred by the suspension of All-Star Gilbert Arenas for bringing guns into the Verizon Center locker room. They finished 26-56 after being widely forecast to finish in the middle of the Eastern Conference.
Irene Pollin hopes the lottery win will help fans forget last season's turbulent year, when the Wizards also traded former All-Stars Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison to cut salary after things fell apart.
"Fans are fickle. But I think this is a wonderful thing for our fans who have really stuck by us," Pollin said. "They really have been through a very, very tough year. Actually when I got up and spoke to them, I was thanking them for sticking by us and being so supportive even though we had all the problems."
Now they hope the No. 1 pick can help spark a quick turnaround under Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis, who is close to completing a deal to buy the franchise from the Pollin family.
"We have a lot of work to do with the franchise," Leonsis said. "The players, the culture, the expectations, the discipline around the team, but I do think it is a breath of fresh air and does revive the franchise and gives us a shot to be an exciting team with a lot of expectations. I know how hard it is to rebuild a team. I am going to be patient but I have a strong belief that our management team and ownership team is very focused. We are going to work hard and listen to everybody. I promise we will build a team that everyone can be proud of."
Represented by new owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the Nets had a 25 percent chance of winning after going 12-70. Instead, the team with the worst record still hasn't won since 2004, when the Orlando Magic selected Dwight Howard.
Asked before the lottery about potentially changing the system to keep teams from losing on purpose to improve their probability of winning, commissioner David Stern said he thinks, "the results of the lottery, if anything, are causing teams with the worst record to feel as though a paucity of wins is not being adequately recognized and compensated."
Arenas' suspension is over and he is eligible to return next season, but the Wizards may have found a replacement for him at point guard in Wall.
"I'm just going to come in and work hard ... just try to win games for the organization this year," Wall said.
But the Wizards will have to do better than they did last time they had the No. 1 pick. That was in 2001, when Hall of Famer and former Washington executive Michael Jordan selected Kwame Brown, considered one of the biggest busts ever at No. 1.
The losers this time were the Minnesota Timberwolves, who fell from second to fourth. Sacramento (No. 5) and Golden State (No. 6) also tumbled — the second straight year the Kings went the wrong way in the lottery.
The Kings went from first to fourth last year, but did end up with Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans — who represented them Tuesday. So maybe the Nets shouldn't lose hope.
The NBA draft is June 24 in New York.
Philadelphia brought its own lucky charm, a used hockey stick from the Philadelphia Flyers' rally from 3-0 down to stun the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. Still looking for a coach after firing former Wizards coach Eddie Jordan, they stand to grab either Turner or Wall.
"We had a rough year. We feel that our talent was better than our record but we have to prove it now," team president Ed Stefanski said.
"For us to move from six to two gives us a much better chance up there. If the first pick and everyone is saying it's John Wall, we have the next and we can take whoever we want. We can entertain offers from a lot of people, so this is important for us and we needed something positive after the year we went through."