Monty Williams due some heartwarming luck

Ex-Magic player's Hornets win draft lottery

The thought crosses former Magic forward Monty Williams' mind from time to time. He can't escape it.

And as the New Orleans Hornets coach was coming down from the high of his team winning the NBA Draft lottery last week, it revisited him.

"I feel blessed, I really do," Williams said by phone late Friday night. "It's such a high because I'm not supposed to be here. I was told I was supposed to die 20 years ago."

Williams isn't being overly dramatic. He was diagnosed with a heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the disease blamed for the deaths of Hank Gathers and Reggie Lewis.

Back in 1990, Williams was delivered a veritable death sentence, doctors telling him that physical activity such as basketball could produce a fatal heart attack. He was taken off the court for two years at Notre Dame until research cleared him.

Testing showed that signs of any disease had vanished, allowing him to play nine seasons in the NBA.

"It's a miracle from God — no other way to explain it," he said.

But Williams has felt he is living on borrowed time ever since. He tries to impart a message to his kids and close friends to make each day count.

"I do talk about it a lot to my kids," he said. "I think about it. You look at your wife and kids, and you realize how blessed you are. Don't ever take things for granted. It humbles me."

The life experience also gives Williams a big-picture perspective, a tool to handle adversity on the job.

Few young head coaches have ever had to deal with challenges Williams faced last season, his second season at the helm. The orphan Hornets were not only being run by the league, but their star, Chris Paul, wanted out of New Orleans.

Paul was finally dealt to the L.A. Clippers after Commissioner David Stern vetoed a trade to the Lakers. The Hornets received rising star Eric Gordon in the deal, but Gordon sustained a season-ending knee injury after playing just nine games.

The Hornets finished 21-45, and had the third-best chance to win the lottery. Then came another miracle for Williams, the sagging franchise and the hurricane-ravaged city.

New Orleans, purchased by Saints owner Tom Benson in April, won the right to the No. 1 pick. They surely will select Anthony Davis, the Kentucky All-American big man. The Hornets also have the No. 10 pick.

"It was surreal. It was so cool. It felt like we had won the championship. It has been a blur the past few days," Williams said. "Everything's changed for us."

There is hard work ahead, but Williams planned to catch his breath Saturday out on a lake with his son. A time for Monty to reflect and enjoy the moment.

"I'm taking my 4-year-old fishing in the morning," he said. "We're going fishing. Everything else, all that other stuff, it's all gravy."

Oh, Nutso!

Former Magic guard DeShawn Stevenson was fondly called "Nutso" during his stay in Orlando.

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