NBA Draft Lottery: Conspiracy?

The NBA has a new conspiracy on its hands. At a time when many fans (particularly those who are fans of the Celtics or really for that matter anyone who plays against the Heat), are comparing the Association to professional wrestling the last thing it needed was another opportunity to prove that it was rigged. Unfortunately for David Stern and Company that opportunity presented itself last night with the New Orleans Hornets winning the NBA Draft Lottery, all but assuring them of having “The Unibrow” Anthony Davis blocking shots in the Big Easy for years to come.

Why is it that over 50 % of people who answered this USA Today Poll: believe that the lottery was fixed? Well, it really goes back to December 2010 when the NBA took over “temporary” control of the New Orleans Hornets after the team filed for bankruptcy under its former owners George Shinn and Gary Chouest. The Association essentially purchased the team from these two gentlemen for an estimated $300 million, and then most famously David Stern blocked a trade of star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers (with the Houston Rockets acting as a middle-man) for “basketball reasons” in what should be Stern’s weakest moment as commissioner of the NBA. People are still making jokes about that veto by Stern (who really was technically acting as GM or team president) as he blocked a trade made by his cronies, but that situation just brings to light a bigger problem as to what kind of control a league should have over its teams. After lengthy attempts to market and sell the Hornets and rid the league of the additional responsibilities that come with running on the of the teams in addition to governing the other 29 teams in the league, David Stern was finally able to sell the Hornets to the New Orleans Saints owner, Tom Benson, for $338 million this past April.

The way that the draft lottery works is that representatives from all eligible teams (every team that did not make the playoffs) gather in New York and they watch as ping pong balls are selected to determine a four digit combination, which are assigned prior to the lottery and teams have odds of winning based on their finish in the league standings the previous year. The top three picks in the draft are determined by this ping pong ball selection process and then from the fourth selection on the order is determined by worst record, using tiebreakers when necessary. Did Stern promise Tom Benson the first overall pick in this year’s draft and the chance to draft one of the best 19 year old centers the basketball world has ever seen? Who knows….and probably not…but there was an easy way for the league to prove that they didn’t cheat and for them to gain some credibility with its fans.

Why don’t NBA fans see this? It’s better than envelopes.

SHOW THE FANS THE ACTUAL LOTTERY LIVE. Instead of having the award show basically, in which ESPN televises the results of the lottery where none of the on-stage participants are aware of the outcome, it would be very simple for the league to show the ping pong balls being pulled from the machine. The four letter network could also make it dramatic, by having the league representative pull the balls slowly and give fans a chance to root for the numbers that their team needs instead of praying that their envelope will be opened as it is done now. Why the league refuses to do this already I do not know, but it certainly opens the door for these conspiracy theorists to talk about how rigged they feel the entire process is.

Personally do I feel the league is rigged? No, I don’t. At least I pray it isn’t. When it comes to the lottery I think it would be easy enough for the league to establish some credibility and I would much prefer that fans could have an inside glimpse into the process. Ever since the Celtics got screwed in 1997 and ended up with the 3rd and 5th picks and selected Chauncey Billups and Ron Mercer instead of Timothy Theodore Duncan, I haven’t really given too much thought to the Draft Lottery and realize that it is just that, a lottery. On the matter of poor officiating, I have watched enough games over the past few years to realize that the overall consistency and the star treatment has reached record levels and I don’t think that the officials are “out to get” the Celtics as much as some of the people I’ve seen. Of course I wish the refs would be required to explain themselves for all the technical fouls called on the Celtics in game one, and for not calling a foul late in regulation last night when Rondo got raked across the face driving for a layup (maybe he should have gone down like Wade did when Hansbrough got him in the Heat’s past series), but the officiating has not cost the Celtics these first two games, getting outplayed has. I just hope the teams who didn’t win the lottery last night got “outplayed” too and not hustled.

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