Sunday, June 3, 2012

2 comments There is No NBA Lottery Conspiracy, But It's David Stern's Fault Some Think There Is

Lately one of the two things that have annoyed me the most are those with the idea of an NBA lottery conspiracy and fans (ahem, Bill Simmons) excessively whining about bad officiating that cost a team wins in the playoffs. I know there have been bad calls in the playoffs, but these bad calls usually end up going both ways. There has always been a star system in the NBA and that isn't changing anytime soon, but at some point nearly every team benefits from this star system. In the case of the lottery, I just find it hard to believe there is an NBA lottery conspiracy. If there was, Tim Duncan/Greg Oden would have ended up in Boston either of the two seasons the Celtics were odds-on favorites to get the #1 overall pick or the Sonics would have been giving the #1 pick when they moved to Oklahoma City. Not to mention, Anthony Davis to New Orleans would be such an obvious conspiracy I'm not even sure it could count as a conspiracy anymore than a gift from the NBA to the city of New Orleans. The NBA can't be that stupid as to have such an obvious conspiracy would they? Today, David Steele covers the Hornets great luck since the nixed Chris Paul trade.

Has there ever been a bigger trade in the history of American sports that never actually happened?

Yes, there probably has been a bigger trade that never happened. The Yankees were rumored to trade Mariano Rivera in the mid-90's for David Wells. Of course Rivera wasn't a Hall of Famer at that point. Barry Bonds was talked about going to Atlanta in 1992 and Randy Johnson was almost a Blue Jay in 1993.

Here are some other NBA trades that never happened.

Here are some more trades that didn't happen.

Well, rumor has it that decades ago, the Yankees almost swapped Joe DiMaggio for Ted Williams, so it’s a pretty high bar.

Yes, that would probably end up being the biggest trade that never happened. Two Hall of Famers traded for each other has to be high at the top of this list. I thought this article was about NBA conspiracies and not epic trades?

Did they know for sure back in December that by not being allowed to trade Chris Paul to the Lakers, they’d end up essentially trading him for Anthony Davis?


I didn't like that David Stern rejected the Rockets-Lakers-Hornets trade, but still I don't completely understand this conspiracy. Let me see if I get how this conspiracy went down. The NBA told the Hornets they were rejecting a trade that would send Paul to the Lakers and accepted a trade that would send Paul to the Clippers. In return, the Hornets would receive the #1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft. So the assumption is the NBA knew the package from the Clippers couldn't help the Hornets make the playoffs, while they weren't so sure the package from the Rockets couldn't manage to help the Hornets stumble into the playoffs. So by accepting a lesser package, and in coordination with the eventual sale of the team to Tom Benson (and the league knew about this sale when rejecting the trade), the Hornets would get the #1 overall pick. The NBA knew this #1 overall pick would be a franchise player and so this was going to be a great benefit to the Hornets organization. Do I have that right? I think so.

Applications skyrocketed Wednesday night, when the balls bounced New Orleans’ way, moved them up from fourth to first

That's another one of my issues. They went from fourth to first. That's not a huge leap. I could probably buy the conspiracy more if the Hornets had a 1%-2% chance of getting the pick, but they had relatively good odds to land the #1 overall pick. Not to mention, this is a loaded draft so even at the #4 spot the Hornets could get a potential impact player.

I will say this doesn't appear to look good for David Stern. He has put himself in this position by owning the Hornets and not allowing the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers to go through. So while I don't believe there is a conspiracy, I can see how those who love conspiracies can see one. David Stern hasn't exactly done a great job of making it look like he isn't pulling strings behind the scenes. Of course, being the egomaniac that he is, David Stern probably enjoys the fact people believe there is a conspiracy. He's bizarre in that way.

and steered Davis, the lone consensus franchise player,

We all know how David Steele feels about Anthony Davis, but I'm not sure he is a consensus franchise player. Yes, he's a great defender, but we've seen players come out of college that are great college defenders before and this hasn't translated well to the NBA. So I don't believe Davis is a consensus franchise player. Of course I also believe there are 2-3 other potential franchise players in this draft, along with 3-4 guys who could make a few All-Star teams and the Bobcats are still in good shape if (and that's a big "if") they do their scouting homework. So my opinion may mean nothing to anyone.

Of course, it’s highly unlikely that it happens if the league-operated Hornets, with no clear ownership candidate in sight, end up with Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a content Lamar Odom (yes, that’s a stretch, in hindsight) instead of the package of youth, friendly contracts and picks that made them lottery contenders instead of playoff contenders.

So the NBA decided rather than give the Hornets a team which can compete now, they would rather take the chance there is a franchise player coming out of the NBA Draft (remember, it was December when this trade was rejected and Anthony Davis had just started his college career) and they would give the Hornets this pick? This seems like a lot of speculation on the part of the NBA. I would think the conspiracy would move towards helping the Hornets compete now, rather than potentially compete down the road. The Hornets had options with the original Lakers-Hornets-Rockets trade could have at worst moved Scola/Martin for a draft pick to make the team even younger. I guess I don't get it. Is building a team around Anthony Davis better than having Scola/Martin/Dragic/Odom? In the long-term, quite possibly, but in the short-term having Scola/Martin/Dragic/Odom would do more to get a buyer for the team because the team would be more successful. Maybe I'm thinking about this wrong. I think the contracts of Scola/Martin would give the team flexibility to make further moves or just compete with the current team. So I don't know if I'm even buying the intelligence of the conspiracy.

When Stern said at the time of the eventual Paul deal to the Clippers, “I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans, and that was my job,” it rubbed everybody wrong then. It makes sense now.

It doesn't really make sense to me. David Stern had no idea who would declare for the NBA Draft in December, so he would have no idea what players would be available. Yes, it looked like a loaded draft, but a conspiracy to give them the #1 overall pick doesn't make sense to me in connection to the Chris Paul trade. There was definitely motivation by David Stern to give the Hornets two draft picks in or close to the lottery, but probably not a motivation to ensure they got the #1 overall pick.

Let’s not be Pollyanna-ish and act as if this isn’t a godsend for the NBA, the Hornets, new owner Tom Benson and a very strong basketball operation that worked miracles the past couple of years under nightmarish conditions.

Ok. Let's not do this. Let's do act like Anthony Davis is 19 years old, has a limited offensive game and hasn't played a minute in the NBA yet. Let's just automatically anoint him a franchise player right now.

More like real freaky. Here are some of the implications:

Paul ended up with the Clippers instead of the Lakers; the Clippers became a playoff team, and the Lakers failed to become a championship contender.

I don't see what this has to do with this lottery conspiracy, but maybe that's just me. I never agreed with Stern stepping into the Rockets-Lakers-Hornets trade, but I think he was just being the typical overbearing asshole that he is. I'm not sure he had bad intentions or had a larger conspiracy at play. I think this is just a coincidence that Stern could have avoided but chose not to.

There's no guarantee the Lakers would have been a championship contender with Chris Paul on the roster. Yes, they look a lot stronger on paper, but they would have been without Pau Gasol in the middle with Andrew Bynum. There is some assuming in saying the Lakers would have been able to beat the Thunder with Paul on the roster.

Devoid of the boost of talent, the Hornets, of course, missed the playoffs. But because Williams and the rest of the organization refused to tank (while Cleveland was “careful” with Kyrie Irving’s minutes down the stretch), the two teams tied in the standings. The Cavaliers won the coin toss and got the third pick, which wasn’t the one that leaped to the top.

Eric Gordon was injured nearly all season. He would have given the Hornets a nice boost of talent if he were injured. I don't know if Eric Gordon being injured all year was a part of the conspiracy that existed to make sure the Hornets get the #1 overall pick. Gordon would have helped the Hornets win more games. Did the NBA make sure Gordon stayed injured so the Hornets could lose more games? It's a conspiracy!

The pick they received in the Paul trade, a three-way that included Minnesota, wound up 10th overall. Unlucky break for the Timberwolves, since their own hopes for this season were torn along with Ricky Rubio’s ACL in March. Not unlucky for the Hornets, though.

No, it is all a part of the conspiracy though. The same league that can't always get a competent set of officials together in the playoffs is capable of putting together a vast conspiracy that started in December and ended with the draft lottery in May.

By the Hornets leapfrogging the Bobcats, the Michael Jordan-led franchise did not get the benefit of trashing their own season and finishing with the worst win percentage in NBA history. On the bright side, it gives Jordan a chance to botch the first, second and third overall choices in a span of just 12 years, as rare a feat as his six Finals MVP awards.

If Michael Jordan paid attention to what people wrote about him, cared what people thought about how he runs the Bobcats, or could be pulled off the golf course...then this comment would have really irritated him. This comment would probably have irritated him so much he would revise his Hall of Fame speech to include David Steele on his litany of people who did him wrong.

Stern gets to hear another intense burst of accusations that his league is crooked, always a fun topic for him.

I sometimes believe talking about accusations the league is crooked is a fun topic for Stern. Again, while I don't believe there was a conspiracy, it also doesn't seem like Stern did much to put himself in a situation where there wasn't a conflict of interest. He put himself in a tough position when the NBA owned the Hornets and then seemed to decide what trades the Hornets were and were not able to accept. Stern set him up for allegations of a conspiracy and doesn't seem to give a shit about accusations of a conspiracy.

It’s beyond insulting to even have to defend him and the league against such charges, and always has been.

It really isn't insulting at all to defend the commissioner from charges like this. Fans have a right to be suspicious. The NBA seems to have had an officiating problem in the past, in the present and in the future. While I don't believe it necessarily affects the outcome of games, the officiating becomes too much of an issue in the playoffs. This officiating issue is exacerbated by the Tim Donaghy situation a few years ago that David Stern dismissed with a simple wave of his hand, even when Donaghy stated other officials probably took part in placing bets on games. Nothing to see here, move along.

Throw in the conspiracies about the Knicks getting the #1 overall pick in 1985 to draft Patrick Ewing and other fishy stuff like the rejected Lakers-Rockets-Hornets trade and you can't blame a person for believing the NBA has conspiracies in place. I'm not sure of the correct way to disprove there aren't conspiracies in the NBA, but I do believe the way David Stern goes about it, hiding behind his curtain and insisting there is nothing to see here may not be the most efficient way of going about it.

So it isn't insulting to defend Stern against these accusations. He could do things to show the public they are crazy, conspiracy-loving idiots (which is probably true) by televising the ping-pong balls being pulled for the NBA lottery or even showing up for the draft lottery. He could state publicly he is going to take a hard look at the officiating in the NBA, which he won't do because that would be admitting there may be a problem. Stern prefers to sit high in his tower and allow the theories of conspiracies and criticism of him to accumulate. He's above all of it of course.

I don't think there is an overwhelming issue with the officiating in the NBA. There are fishy calls in the NBA like in any other sport. Unfortunately the poor officiating combined with other issues where it looks like the NBA has meddled with part of the game (the NBA draft lottery, potential trades being rejected) makes it look like there is a devious plan that David Stern has in place. So he has brought this upon himself in my opinion and it isn't insulting to him to insinuate there is a conspiracy. It's almost like he wants you to believe there is a conspiracy.

Nevertheless, as solid as his position as best commissioner ever still is,

Sorry, I'm not buying David Stern as the best commissioner ever. David Steele has dipped into some bad drugs if he believes this.

even he couldn’t have foreseen all of this:

The history of a franchise, a city, an All-Star player and a can’t-miss prospect altered forever by Stern just saying “no.”

Please...David Stern absolutely could have foreseen this. He chose to block a trade when the NBA owned a franchise involved in the trade because he didn't think it was in the best interests of the team. This trade gave the Hornets younger players who didn't give them as good of a chance to compete during the 2011-2012 season. Stern specifically chose to allow the Hornets to accept a trade that didn't give the Hornets a strong short-term opportunity to compete. There's no way Stern could have foreseen the Hornets would struggle and could end up with the #1 overall pick? This never crossed his mind that his meddling could look even worse down the road if the Hornets have a bad season and end up with a high draft pick because they got less proven and experienced players in the Chris Paul trade? I don't believe this.

Most anybody in Stern's position would have concerns about how the rejection of the Hornets-Rockets-Lakers would be seen and how it would cause ripples in the NBA and among NBA fans down the road. David Stern just didn't care. I think that fact he didn't care says more about him as a commissioner than it says about a conspiracy to give the Hornets the #1 overall pick.


sptrfn said...

That is an interesting list of NBA trades that didn't happen. I didn't know that Rodman almost went to Phoenix. Robert Horry almost went to Phoenix, too. I think that the Lakers had a trade worked out with Phoenix, but it was nullified. I think that he was almost traded to Detroit as well(around 1994).

Bengoodfella said...

Sptrfn, I vaguely remember the Rodman to Phoenix rumors. I didn't know Horry almost went to Phoenix. For some reason the Horry to Detroit rumor sounds familiar, but it was 18 years ago, so I perhaps its just I want to remember it, so I do.