NBA's Ownership Of Hornets Left League In Position For People To Claim Lottery Was Fixed
Critics of the NBA Draft Lottery are claiming the process was rigged for the Hornets to claim the No. 1 selection in this month's draft, but no matter how "ridiculous ... the conspiracy theorists might be for a variety of reasons, the NBA brought this on itself," according to Jonathan Feigen of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Stern, "knowing that the cries that the lottery is somehow rigged are completely unfounded, likes to brush aside the complaints as not worthy of his concern or within his control." However, when he “continued to deny that it was a conflict of interest to run one NBA team … he ignored the horrible appearance of impropriety that would come with the good fortune of the Hornets.” The lottery "is not fixed in any way," and anyone who has "been in the room in which the actual lottery is held ... knows it cannot be fixed.” For all the calls that the "league cheated, no one has offered a plausible explanation for how it would be done, or for that matter why so many past lotteries have gone against the league’s supposed best interests." However, the NBA “should not so casually dismiss those that accuse it of cheating," as it "hurts the league to have its customers doubt its integrity” (CHRON.com, 5/31). Stern recounted a conversation he had with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal regarding the sale of the Hornets, noting he said, “‘Can’t we close this deal before the lottery, just against the possibility that this team will win it?’ But we ultimately decided that it didn’t matter because, you know, if New Orleans comes up first it’ll be because we own it and we made a deal. If the Nets come up first it’s because of Brooklyn, and if it’s Charlotte it’s because of Michael Jordan.” In N.Y., Harvey Araton writes the notion “that a man in Stern’s position would risk the fate of his beloved league, his legacy and possible criminal prosecution on the positioning of a player ... has always been far-fetched.” Yet in the “age of the Internet and the birthers, and for people in the business of selling credibility, perception must at least be addressed” (N.Y. TIMES, 6/1).
THINK ABOUT IT: In Toronto, Ryan Wolstat writes the NBA “didn’t rig the lottery,” as a "law firm, team executives and media members are in the room where the drawing takes place.” There is “no way a multi-billion-dollar league like the NBA would take a chance and break federal laws and risk looking like a joke.” While it might seem “a little fishy that New Orleans conveniently won after being league-owned and after trading its superstar point guard Chris Paul before this season started, it has to be a coincidence” (TORONTO SUN, 6/1). In Dallas, Eddie Sefko writes, “Does anybody really believe the NBA would risk utter humiliation, not to mention the epic loss of integrity, by rigging the lottery results to benefit a team the league technically still owns until the sale to Tom Benson is formally approved? Never mind, for a moment, that the federal government would have something to say about it” (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 6/1). Yahoo Sports Radio’s Jason Goch said, "They have a legitimate accounting firm that audits this stuff. You have to talk about a huge conspiracy, and I think it’s a risk/reward thing too. Can you imagine if they did discover that the lottery was fixed? How bad that would look for the NBA? It’s too risky for that to happen” ("Chicago Tribune Live," Comcast SportsNet Chicago, 5/31).
PERCEPTION IS REALITY: ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said it "doesn’t matter if the lottery is actually fixed,” but it “matters that close to 80% of the people think it could be fixed." Kornheiser: "It’s a very significant problem for the NBA when 80% of the people in America think that they rig something having to do with their league. ... Perception is reality in this particular case” ("PTI," ESPN, 5/31). SportsNet N.Y.’s Jonas Schwartz said, “I’m not sure the league is benefitting from this because the conspiracy theories keep growing more and more. Now that you’ve got NBA people talking about it, there’s something to it” (“Daily News Live,” SportsNet N.Y., 5/31). SI's Chris Mannix said, "This has become a PR nightmare for the NBA (which) simply doesn't need any more PR nightmares right now." Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin said, “The NBA is not really ever going to be able to fix this problem unless they do away with the Lottery” ("NBC Sports Talk," NBC Sports Network, 5/31). SB Nation's Bomani Jones noted it is "fair to ask questions about” the Hornets winning the lottery. However, those questions "should be shut down pretty quickly because the lottery is witnessed by other people, so we know that it is not fixed.” The Dallas Morning News' Tim Cowlishaw said the “opportunity is there to have some shenanigans” with the lottery, but “you should come to the conclusion pretty quickly that the league is not actually fixing things" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 5/31).
SNEAKY SUSPICION: USA TODAY’s Mike Lopresti writes the NBA Draft Lottery was “so suspect, the drawing should have been held on a grassy knoll.” Lopresti: “Easy to see this fix with the naked eye. Something had to sweeten the deal and clinch the sale. A car salesman might throw in a sunroof. The NBA threw in Anthony Davis.” However, “there is no reason to think the league would pull the rug from beneath [Bobcats Owner] Michael Jordan” (USA TODAY, 6/1). In Ft. Worth, Randy Galloway writes the Hornets “HAD to be that winner and also the new rights holder to the No. 1 pick.” Galloway: "If commissioner David Stern calls, asking to see my proof, I have none. But I got my education on the streets of the nation. The streets are full of scams.” While there are “many potential scams lurking in the jock kingdom (the NFL, particularly in this day and age, is moving with a bullet up the scam chart) none has lurked for as long and under such suspicious circumstances as the NBA lottery” (FT. WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM, 6/1).
WHY THE LOTTERY IS AROUND IN THE FIRST PLACE: The need for the Draft Lottery was discussed on ESPN's "Outside The Lines" Thursday, and former NBA Deputy Commissioner Russ Granik said it was instituted not to “create a TV show or to increase interest or anything like that." It was to "not totally incentivize teams to tank towards the end of the season.” Granik: “The more you do to dissuade tanking, then the more you risk that the bottom team is not going to get the No. 1 pick. The league’s come up with a system that tries to balance things.” Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan said, "Only three times in 19 years has the worst team gotten the best choice. That totally discourages anybody from even thinking about tanking, which I think is the object in the first place.” SB Nation's Jones said, "Without a lottery, tanking is really a good idea if you have a dominant player.” He added there is not a “problem with the way the system is now" ("Outside The Lines," ESPN, 5/31).