Perception has now become reality. What was once only subjective now appears certifiable. NBA Commissioner David Stern now undeniably reigns as the power-driven, ultra-manipulative, divide and conquer “Cuban dictator” Charles Oakley once defiantly compared him to. And to boot, the NBA Draft Lottery is now officially and classifiably rigged.
At least that’s been the hue and cry ever since inquisitive eyes witnessed team execs of the league owned and rescued New Orleans Hornets— the team no one else seemed to want mere months ago— stroll into the New York offices of its bosses just hours ago with no more than the equivalency of a halfcourt heave of corralling the league’s most treasured new jack only to emerge from all the festivities by nightfall as the boastful owners of one of the game’s most valued commodities.
And with that David Stern wins again, his hardline stances of netting maximum value (in the neighborhood of $340 million) for the squad from prospective new owner Tom Benson and added assurances he will keep the team in what Stern views as the yet rebuilding, but soon-to-be thriving Big Easy now nothing less than foregone conclusions.
In securing the right to select Kentucky’s Anthony Davis— a prospect already being described by scouts as one of the most transcendent talents the game has seen in years— all the variables lined up so perfectly for the Hornets that even other league officials have joined the chorus of conspiracy theorists.
First Stern squashed the team’s agreed-upon trade of All-star guard Chris Paul to the Lakers seemingly because he wanted to receive younger and less expensive talent in return— a tried and true modus operandi most owners take in attracting a buyer for an on-the-market franchise.
The fact that his veto clearly disrupted the flow and balance of several other teams, all of whom he is mandated by contract to have the best interest at heart for just before the start of what was already certain to be a chaotic and strike-shortened season, all seemed lost on Commissioner Stern.
Then after a surprisingly adequate start, as the season progressed the Hornets were allowed to all but tank several games of their games, thereby landing the team tied with Cleveland for the league’s third poorest record and securing more ping pong for themselves in this week’s mockery of a lottery drawing.
“It’s such a joke that the league made the new owners be at the lottery for the show,” one irate team exec told Yahoo! Sports, boldly insinuating he believes Stern and Co. were still calling all the shots.
“The league still owns the Hornets,” he added. “Ask their front office if the new owners can make a trade right now. They can’t. This is a joke.”
Understand these aren’t just the isolated ranting’s of a frustrated owner or exec who’s simply been bested by his boss. In a poll conducted by the USA Today, only 18 percent of more than 6,000 voters said they find the lottery process to definitely be legitimate. More than half the voters (55 percent) said they think it was fixed and another 28 percent at least seemed somewhat suspect of all the machinations.
At IamaGM.com, a site that is regularly followed by many top league team execs and players, at least 10 NBA players have tweeted openly questioned the lottery’s outcome.
Mind you, this isn’t the first time the league has known such controversy. Back in 1985, in the first NBA draft of record, many were outraged not to mention leery of how Patrick Ewing found his way to New York. And just two ago, speculation ran rampant that top-pick Kyrie Irving was somehow shepherded to Cleveland as some form of payback for the Cavs losing homegrown LeBron James to Miami.
Adding to all the drama are photos now flooded the web were Davis can be spotted wearing Hornets’ hat prior to the draft even being conducted. “I bet I could get my owner to tank if I knew the chance of getting the No. 1 pick was 100 percent,” added another top-level team exec.
My advice? Have your people call David Stern’s people and, well, you know the rest.
Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports and culture writer who has contributed to the likes of ESPN, Vibe and the NFL Magazine. He has also been on staff at AOL Sports, the Chicago Tribune and was the founding sports editor for 360HipHop.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @glennnyc.