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Hornets win draft lottery, will pick No. 1 in NBA

Thursday - 5/31/2012, 4:34am  ET

By BRIAN MAHONEY
AP Basketball Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - After a painful wait for a new owner, the search for a new star was a breeze for the New Orleans Hornets.

All it took was a little luck of the draw.

And Anthony Davis can't wait to play as a pro in the city where he won a championship in college.

The Hornets, recently sold by the NBA to Saints owner Tom Benson, won the league's draft lottery Wednesday and the No. 1 pick overall _ which they almost certainly will use to select the consensus college player of the year who led Kentucky to a national title.

He could be joined by another young piece, as the Hornets also have the No. 10 pick.

"I'm excited for our fans, especially those people who hung in there with us," said coach Monty Williams, who represented the Hornets on stage and insisted his team keep playing hard as its difficult season was ending, even though it could have hurt its chances of landing a high pick.

"I'm excited for the Benson family. They bought this organization without knowing what pick we were going to have. And yet I'm mindful of all the work that is going to have to be done for us to be a good team. You can't skip those steps. ... Those two young guys can't help us become a championship team overnight. We've got to address a lot of issues."

So do the Charlotte Bobcats, who added one more loss to a historic season full of them. Michael Jordan's team had the best shot at the No. 1 pick after the worst season in NBA history, but instead fell to the No. 2 spot.

No such disappointment for the Hornets, whose good fortune comes after a difficult season in which they traded All-Star Chris Paul and a couple of years in limbo where they couldn't do much to upgrade the roster while the league was looking for a buyer.

"Just a first step for us to winning it all," Benson said in a TV interview after the lottery.

The Hornets moved up from the fourth spot, where they had a 13.7 percent chance, to earn the pick.

"Everything was surreal once they announced the fourth pick," Williams said. "I said `This is pretty cool.' I knew my wife and kids were home praying that things would go well and they did."

The Bobcats had a 25 percent chance of grabbing the No. 1 pick after going 7-59, lowest winning percentage in NBA history. Instead they will have to take the best player after Davis, possibly his teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Washington will pick third and Cleveland fell one spot to fourth.

The team with the worst record hasn't won since Orlando drafted Dwight Howard in 2004.

"We will still take the best player available and when you win seven games you have a lot of holes," Bobcats general manager Rich Cho said. "From a competitive standpoint and for anyone who has played sports or been competitive, you want to win and be No. 1. We know we're still going to get a good player."

Cho and team vice chairman Curtis Polk said shortly after the results they hadn't heard from Jordan, the Bobcats owner.

"Being No. 2 isn't terrible. We'll be fine," Polk said.

The league bought the Hornets from financially struggling owner George Shinn in December 2010 and the sale to Benson was completed in April. In between, the NBA was criticized for the conflict of interest of a league owning a franchise, particularly when Commissioner David Stern blocked a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in December, then approved another that landed Paul with the Clippers.

The ownership uncertainty hindered the Hornets, but they were in a celebrating mood Wednesday after earning the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1991, when they were still in Charlotte and took Larry Johnson.

General manager Dell Demps said he pumped his fist in the room where the drawing took place after seeing that the balls had been drawn in the Hornets' favor.

"When our combination came up, it was an exciting feeling," he said. "I got an incredible rush. ... We knew what the odds were. We hoped for the best. It was nothing we could control. We're just happy."

The Hornets finished 21-45, winning eight of their final 13 games with a young roster. Williams and his players felt it would be wrong to do anything but try to win down the stretch, and they were rewarded.

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