Michael Finley and Keith Grant weren’t alone at last night’s NBA Draft Lottery in New York.
Joining them was Neil Herskowitz, who’s worked under equipment manager Al Whitley for almost a decade. Herskowitz received a double-lung transplant in 2015 after battling cystic fibrosis for his entire life. Read more about his story here, and watch his interview with ESPN’s Cassidy Hubbarth below.
“I’m fortunate to say that things are going well now,” Herskowitz said. “But, really, I’m just emblematic of a lot of people — some I don’t even know, including hte donor’s family. The benevolence that they’ve shown, the care, hard work and patience of doctors, family, friends, obviously the Mavericks’ staff from top to bottom.”
Now nearly two years removed from his surgery, Herskowitz — also known by the team as “McLovin” — has become a source of inspiration for the entire organization. Rick Carlisle, Brad Davis, and Whitley shared their thoughts on Herskowitz in a terrific piece on CBS toward the beginning of the season.
“This is as inspirational a kid as I’ve been around,” Carlisle said at the time. “I love him like a little brother.”
Herskowitz’s bravery in the face of a terrible situation has given the entire team a lift for some time, and it’s easy to see why. He’s the kind of guy who always makes you laugh no matter who you are or what kind of mood you’re in, even if you only talk to him for five seconds. It was awesome to see him represent the team in New York.
Herskowitz sat in the room where the ping pong balls were drawn, which put a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. However, he didn’t take any superstitious charms. (“I don’t believe in good luck, but what I do believe in is the greater the stage, the bigger I rage,” he said.) The Mavs wound up with the No. 9 pick in the draft, matching their projected position heading into the evening. Although the club wasn’t able to move up, Dallas still believes it has a great chance at landing a player who can produce immediately.
As the draft process unfolds, the Mavs will begin working out rookies they might be interested in selecting with that ninth pick. One thing they’ll be looking for in prospects is the measure of their character. From the very top, this is an organization full of uniquely good people who care about basketball and each other, and while Herskowitz might not have persuaded the basketball gods into giving Dallas a higher pick, he still proudly represented the team’s best quality.