Gentry learned that the Pelicans won the right to draft Duke sensation Zion Williamson despite the team having just 6 percent odds to land the No. 1 pick.
“They started calling out the numbers. We obviously got this seed sheet, and I am trying to look through it and find out our numbers,” Gentry said afterward. “I find the first number, then the second number and then the third, and I’m like, ‘Oh s—.’
“The fourth one comes up, I try to look at all our combinations and then they said, ‘The winner is the New Orleans Pelicans.’ And I said, ‘F— yeah!’ And then I said, ‘Excuse me, I’m sorry.'”
Williamson, who averaged 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds per game as a true freshman for Duke last season, sat in the front row when the draft lottery took place in Chicago.
The 2019 Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year, Williamson was hoping to get selected by the New York Knicks, a source told ESPN’s The Undefeated. The final four picks in the draft lottery came down to the Pelicans, Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Memphis Grizzlies. After it was announced the Pelicans landed the top pick, Williamson bolted out of the room without a verbal reaction.
Gentry and new Pelicans executive vice president David Griffin were ecstatic. Both are hopeful that landing Williamson could persuade All-Star forward Anthony Davis to rescind a trade demand and play with the heralded youngster and guard Jrue Holiday in New Orleans.
“Guys, the one thing you got to understand is [Davis] is still on our roster,” Gentry said. “He is on our roster. All of that will take care of itself. I’m not worried about it. I know Griff has some plans to talk to him, and it will be fine.”
Said Griffin: “I hope we build something that attracts elite players. I want it to be something that people want to be part of. Maybe this jump-starts the process. Elite talent likes to play with elite talent.”
Asked on a conference call with local reporters if he would require a “king’s ransom” to trade Davis, Griffin replied, “From my perspective, I want Anthony Davis to want what we’re doing. I want Anthony Davis to want to be part of this. And I’m not focused on much of anything other than, ‘Let’s get better tomorrow.’ If Anthony wants to buy into that, that’s fantastic. And if he doesn’t, then we’ll deal with it when it’s appropriate.”
Also sitting in the front row at the draft lottery was Murray State point guard Ja Morant, who is expected to be the second overall pick. The Grizzlies landed the No. 2 pick.
“I really didn’t have any [emotions],” Morant told The Undefeated. “I really was just excited to see it all play out with how it went. I’m not disappointed. They still got the same player that is still going to go in and work like I’ve been doing. …
“I just play my game. I will just try and make an impact. With my [basketball] IQ, I feel like I will be able to make plays for me and my teammates.”
ESPN’s Mike Triplett contributed to this report.