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Did the promise of Anthony Davis seal the deal?
Much was made last month when the league owned New Orleans Hornets won the NBA draft lottery. The league had agreed to sell the Hornets to the New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, but the deal wasn't even official yet. The reason the Hornets were owned by the league was because Stern was so desperate to get rid of one of the most unpopular owners in league history, George Shinn. Shinn had killed basketball in Charlotte (once the perennial league leader in attendance and was on course to do the same in New Orleans).

How was Stern going to find an owner to meet the necessary asking price the league demanded? Step 1 was vetoing the original Chris Paul to the Lakers trade, which the Hornets GM, Dell Demps, had poorly facilitated. That trade would have made the Hornets a 25-30 win team with bloated contracts and no future. Getting Eric Gordon, bottoming out, reducing payroll, and having 2 high draft picks to rebuild the team with this Summer was a much wiser course of action and would be more appealing to a prospective owner. Did Stern care about the uproar over him vetoing the original blockbuster? Hell no. Stern does want he wants.

Former Cavs inept owner Ted Stepien
Now two possibilities could have occurred after the Gordon trade. One is that Benson was satisfied with the team's future outlook and agreed to Stern's asking price. The other option is that Stern included the #1 pick in today's draft to seal the deal. If you think that's crazy talk, just know that Stern has sold draft picks to prospective owners in the past to complete a team sale.

Way back in the 1980's when Stern was just beginning his dictatorship, he was desperate to get rid of Ted Stepien, the Cavs owner who was referred to as the worst in all sports. The Cavs were horrible and Sepien had traded away all of the team's draft picks. James Worthy (1982), Derek Harper (1983), Sam Perkins (1984), Detlef Schrempf (1985), Roy Tarpley (1986), and Dennis Rodman (1987) all were draft picks made by other teams thanks to the Cavs trading them their first rounders for scrubs (This is why we now have the "Stepien Rule" which prohibits a team from trading 1st rounders in consecutive seasons).

Brothers George and Gordon Gund were willing to buy the Cavs after the 1983 season, but only if the NBA kicked in bonus draft picks, which they did. To facilitate the sale, Stern and the NBA gave the Cavs four first round picks from 1983-1986. The Gunds agreed to purchase the team only after that agreement.


Would you prefer the 1982 #1 overall
 pick or the immortal Dan Ford?
So while David Stern might have taken great offense to Jim Rome asking him about the feeling from many fans that the draft lottery is rigged, fans have a right to wonder. And fans have history on their side. In this day and age, Stern couldn't publicly announce that the Hornets were getting the #1 pick. With all the talk radio shows, ESPN, blogs, twitter, etc, the league would get KILLED if they were transparent on this. No it would have to have been something more subtle. Maybe weighted ping pong balls to throw out one idea.

Yes, I know the NBA invites one rep from every team to the lottery drawings and they also invite 4 token media members. But do these player reps and media members have the background to know rigged ping pong balls from regular ping pong balls? They're not Vegas casino security. They're basketball people.

Maybe the Hornets just ended up lucky and there were no shenanigans. Maybe Benson was willing to buy the Hornets without the #1 overall pick. Or maybe there is some truth to this conspiracy. Maybe there was a reason why several team executives cried foul after the lottery. If you think Stern would never give draft picks to help push along a team sale, think again. It happened when he took over the league and quite possibly may have happened again as he prepares to leave the league in the near future.

Sources: Tip-Off: How the 1984 NBA Draft Changed Basketball Forever
Joe Tait, It's Been a Real Ball

JR 6/28/2012 12:16:00 AM Edit
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