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Waiting for pingpong balls to bounce the Sixers' way at draft lottery

BETWEEN SOUTH JERSEY AND NEW YORK - Of the more than a handful of NBA draft lotteries I've attended over the years, this one presented a different assignment.

BETWEEN SOUTH JERSEY AND NEW YORK - Of the more than a handful of NBA draft lotteries I've attended over the years, this one presented a different assignment.

I was asked by the NBA to be part of the Drawing Room for Tuesday's Draft Lottery in downtown New York City, the place where the "real" drawing takes place, not the "made-for-television" one you all saw. Without cellphone or computer for close to two hours, the only entertainment was watching pingpong balls fall through a clear machine being run by air. Turned out to be very entertaining when the results finally came about.

Here's a look at how the day played out:

1 p.m.: Hit the road to head to Hamilton, N.J., train station to catch a 2:15 into New York City. First problem of the day arises. Truck fire at entrance to Route 295 North. Major delays. Chance of getting to Hamilton on time doesn't look good when I finally get on 295 in Cherry Hill at 1:35.

2:02: Somehow pull into Hamilton station, find a quick parking spot and make it to platform in plenty of time, about four minutes to spare.

2:05: Text from a friend and Sixers fan: "If they don't get the number one pick, I totally blame you and will never let you over for beers ever again." Not a problem, I think. Not a Coors Light fan anyway, and that seems to be all he serves.

3:50: Train arrives at Penn Station. The walk to Downtown Hilton is what makes New York City so great. No better place for people watching.

5:01: K.C. Johnson, the terrific Bulls beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, asks, "Did you see Dikembe?" I said I hadn't and asked whether he was in the media room. "No, he just tweeted that the Sixers got the first pick." Quick check of Twitter shows that former Sixer Dikembe Mutombo deleted his tweet. NBA executives in the media working area laughed it off (a little nervously). No substance to it.

6:45: Maureen Coyle, NBA vice president for basketball communications and event management, starts collecting the 12 media members who are to be present in the Drawing Room.

6:51: Arrive in secluded room and are immediately told to package cellphones and/or computers into big, padded, brown envelopes. Felt like leaving a kid at college for the first time. Didn't know I was so attached to my phone.

6:53: Shuttled to a back room where pingpong machine, three television cameras and big sheets showing the 1,000 different sequences for each team are gathered. As we find our seats, we are told food is in another room. Mass exodus.

7:01: See legendary former Sixers GM Pat Williams, who was representing the Orlando Magic in the Drawing Room. Always great to talk with him. He just finished writing book No. 100.

7:14: Called back into the room where the actual drawing will take place. Little girl, who turns out to be 10-year-old Kylie Rubin, sits at the seat representing the Sixers. She doesn't seem nearly as nervous as the other 13 representatives in the room for the various lottery teams. She is 10, after all. The daughter of Michael Rubin, part of the team's ownership group, she is soon joined by Sixers co-owner Art Wrubbel, who is best friends with her father.

7:16: Start is delayed because there is no representative from the Chicago Bulls. "Maybe they're in denial that they are a lottery team," someone quips.

7:18: The NBA's vice president of basketball operations, Kiki Vandeweghe, explains the rules of the drawing. He lost me after 1,001 combinations but only 1,000 are possible. I nodded approvingly, though. Figured since they were drawing only the top three teams, I could keep track of that. Teams four through 14 just went in order of worst records.

7:26: Numbers 1, 10, 5, 9 shoot up the machine. Those are four of the 250 number sequences assigned to the Sixers. The No. 1 pick is coming to Philly. Kind of wish I could tell someone. Kylie seems excited. Wrubbel more so.

7:28: Numbers 1, 7, 9, 2 are selected. That is another combination owned by the Sixers. Since they can't win again like that, another drawing is made for the second pick.

7:29-7:31: The numbers reveal the Lakers and Celtics will get picks two and three, respectively. Had the Lakers fallen out of the top three, that pick would have conveyed to the Sixers. Oh, well. No. 1 has to have Sixers fans ecstatic.

After 7:31: You want to see something fun? Put about 40 adults in a room with no cellphones or computers and watch them try to conduct themselves. It's sad and funny at the same time.

Kylie Rubin has no problem passing the time, however. She's wearing out the pingpong ball machine, turning on the air, drawing a number, putting it back. Wash, rinse, repeat. A lot.

Mark Jones, the lead guy on the ESPN coverage that has most of our attention because, well, we don't have cellphones, says Brandon Ingram is on a 5,000-calorie-a-day diet. He then said it sounds like a media member's intake. I look up from my third ham-and-cheese sandwich with disgust.

8:26: The announcement we've been holding on to for exactly an hour is finally given to Sixers coach Brett Brown on the television stage, that his team has won the top pick. Brown is politely stoic.

8:33: After dashing to get my cellphone and then into television draft room, I luckily catch Brown by myself for a minute just off the stage. He's less stoic now. "I've said before that you sit on a couch, watching this, and then to be here and experience it firsthand, it's nerve-wracking," he said. "It becomes sort of a surreal thing. You try to pay attention. There's a lot of things going on, so you try to digest that. Then you get this type of news and it's fantastic for the city, it's fantastic for the organization."

8:34: Ask Brown about future before loads of media spot him. I ask whether he knows what the team will do with the top pick on June 23.

"No. No. No. It's not saying anything but the truth," he said. "Bryan (Colangelo) has just come into it. We have (vice president of player personnel) Marc Eversley just coming into it. We just got back from Chicago and we have a lot of firepower around our organization that will dig in and make a calculated decision. A huge decision."

9:57: Sent text from train to buddy who serves the Coors Light. Beggars can't be choosers.