Pelicans beat the odds, get first shot at Zion Williamson

Zion Williamson has not been to New Orleans.

That might be changing very soon.

The Pelicans bucked seriously long odds Tuesday night, winning the NBA draft lottery and the right to have the first chance at selecting the former Duke forward next month — and potentially pairing him with Anthony Davis, in what immediately would become one of the league’s most intriguing frontcourt duos.

“I don’t believe the universe makes mistakes,” said David Griffin, who is barely a month into his tenure as New Orleans’ executive vice president of basketball operations. “I just think we have something special going on.”

Griffin doesn’t play the lottery, unless the jackpot is one of those billion-dollar-type enormous ones.

Maybe he should. The ping-pong balls seem to bounce his way a lot.

Griffin was with Cleveland when the Cavaliers won the lottery in 2011, 2013 and 2014. And now it’s the Pelicans, his new employer, who have struck lottery gold. They defied the odds to do it; the Pelicans entered the lottery with a 6% chance of winning the No. 1 pick for the June 20 draft.

Memphis will choose second, New York third and the Lakers will pick fourth. The Pelicans, Grizzlies and Lakers all moved up to get a top-four spot; New York, Phoenix and Cleveland had the best odds of winning the lottery at 14% each, and none of those clubs got even a top-two pick.

Canada and Kanter: If the Trail Blazers get by the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden wants to ensure Portland center Enes Kanter, a Turkish player whom Turkey wants arrested for his criticism of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will be able to safely travel to Canada for a possible NBA Finals series against Toronto.

The Oregon senator wrote Tuesday to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking that his government facilitate Kanter’s safe passage to and from Canada if the Blazers advance to the title series.

“I also urge your government to state publicly that it will not comply with any Interpol red notice meant to interfere with Mr. Kanter’s livelihood and to intimidate him and his family back in Turkey,” Wyden wrote.

Turkish officials have sought a “red notice” — an international wanted notice — for Kanter through Interpol. Kanter’s Turkish passport was canceled in 2017.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/Pelicans-beat-the-odds-get-first-shot-at-Zion-13846133.php.

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