It's always fun when a current or former coach/player/front office executive drops a "we nearly could have had [insert superstar]" interview, just long enough to frustrate fans of the team that nearly had them. It never serves to titillate, often serves to enervate, and no amount of "but look how things worked out for your side, anyway!" ever makes anything any better.
This is exactly what former Orlando Magic coach Doc Rivers just did to Orlando Magic fans. All the facts and hypothetical hopes regarding this statement may not jibe with reality, but the frustrating fact remains that the Magic, according to Rivers, had a shot at drafting Dwyane Wade in the 2003 draft.
From Rivers' talk with Mike Lupica on ESPN New York about Wade (who, along with Rivers, is a Marquette product), as lovingly transcribed by Sports Radio Interviews:
"Obviously he went to Marquette. I watched him practice. I will tell you a quick story. Dwyane came in to work out with us when I was coaching the Magic and he really shouldn't have. I think we were the 15th pick or the 14th pick. He had no business coming. He just came because of the Marquette connection.
"We had a workout. We had Keith Bogans and a couple of other guys. He dominated that workout more than I have seen any player dominate a workout to a point where we were scrambling trying to make a trade to get him in the draft and move up. We felt a lot of people didn't know it. We had a deal with the Miami Heat if their guy didn't come up the pick was ours. Well when the pick came to Miami … and Dwyane Wade we thought that we had him because we didn't know that Miami liked him and then they called us right before they were about to pick and they said 'We're sorry. We have our guy.' And they picked Dwyane Wade."
Gut-punch, right Magic fans? Well, not quite.
Before you start plugging in Wade's modern day Jerry West-like production into the spot once occupied by Reece Gaines (who Orlando chose at 15 that year), understand that Wade wasn't falling anywhere past the Bulls at either number four or seven (Los Angeles chose sixth, and they were smitten with Chris Kaman from the outset; and either Chicago or Toronto supposedly turned down a deal swapping Chicago's seventh pick and Donyell Marshall for the fourth pick), and there was a real chance that Toronto (picking fourth) was going to take Wade after watching him lead Marquette to the Final Four, while moving Vince Carter into the frontcourt.
Once Wade worked out for Pat Riley, though, it was absolutely all over. Miami was not sending that pick to Orlando if Wade was on the board. Toronto or Chicago (after a deal) was either going to take him fourth overall, or Miami was taking him fifth should he be available. And, oh -- he be available.
And guess what, Orlando? Your team stunk quite a bit the next season, lost a lot of games, spun the lottery balls the right way and picked up a player who is at the very least Wade's equal (and four years younger) in Dwight Howard. Be careful what you retroactively wish for, dubious though the circumstances may be.