Timberwolves assistant general manager Fred Hoiberg brings a borrowed stuffed bear and what he considers his own lucky self into a New Jersey television studio tonight for the NBA draft lottery, the league's annual game of chance that never has been kind to the franchise its first 11 times around.
Hoiberg represented the Wolves there three years ago when he was a player and brought home the 14th overall selection when his team had a miniscule chance of landing the NBA draft's first pick. Little more than a month later, Hoiberg underwent open-heart surgery to correct a life-threatening condition.
"I'll tell you: I feel lucky to be alive right now," Hoiberg said. "I was lucky to find out about my heart condition when I did. So if you look at it that way, I do feel like I am a lucky person."
The bear comes from a 12-year-old Brooklyn Park boy whom Hoiberg befriended two seasons ago. Matthew Gamber -- who was born with a growth around his heart and underwent a liver transplant when he was six months old -- loaned Hoiberg the teddy bear that has accompanied him to the hospital for more than 100 surgical procedures in his short life.
"He has always brought us a lot of luck when he's in the building," Hoiberg said of Gamber, who attended three victories over mighty Phoenix and one over Utah the past two seasons. "Hopefully, he can help us out with this lucky bear."
A year ago, Wolves guard Randy Foye took to the lottery some holy water from Lourdes, France, and returned home with the seventh overall pick. The Wolves never have done better than their odds and six times have dropped a slot (or two or three) in 11 previous tries at the lottery.