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David Stern would never openly admit it to us. Nope, no commissioner would ever even publicly hint at a sense of displeasure, anger or absolute frustration regarding which franchise just received the number one pick in the upcoming draft – especially when that pick is projected to be an absolute can’t-miss superstar the way Kentucky’s Anthony Davis is.
But let’s be real about this; the New Orleans Hornets winning the NBA Draft Lottery on Wednesday night was Stern’s worst nightmare come to life.
If you compound the never before seen sequence of events that took place involving the Hornets and their elite point guard Chris Paul just before this abbreviated 66 game season got underway with the all-time historically atrocious struggles of the Charlotte Bobcats during 2012, nothing could make Stern look shadier to the league’s ever so skeptical fan base, which is now crying out conspiracy.
It all began way back in early December when Stern – thinking not as the impartial commissioner, but rather as the Hornets owner due to the league having control over the franchise at the time – shockingly pulled the plug on a blockbuster three team deal between New Orleans, the L.A. Lakers, and the Houston Rockets for what he justified as “basketball reasons.”
The trade would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, seven foot forward Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and forward Lamar Odom, guards Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin, forward Luis Scola and the Rockets’ 2012 first round draft pick to the Hornets.
Stern expressed that the transaction was “not in the best interest of the Hornets,” but given that the pieces offered included an immediate first round pick and four players that have proven that they possess very solid NBA talent over the years, no one cared to buy that explanation.
The Lakers said they would work to sweeten the deal in order to completely appease New Orleans; however, Los Angeles’ other basketball team, the Clippers, began to show interest in acquiring Paul.
And from that very moment Stern’s level of trust amongst viewers has inevitably taken the mother of all nosedives.
At this point fans everywhere knew that if the Clippers – the most insignificant team in the Los Angeles sports scene since moving to the city only a handful of decades ago – went on to win this battle, it would be for a reason. What would it be exactly? To finally make them relevant and actually add some spice to a Lakers-Clippers ‘rivalry’ that has always been conquered by the Kobe Bryant-led purple and gold.
So when the Clippers did get Paul for guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2012 first round draft pick, that only added fuel to their argument. How does that trade sound any better than the one the Lakers and Rockets put together? Oh, that’s right, it doesn’t. Not to mention the fact that the Hornets had to ship off two future second round picks of their own in this deal.
All that did was give the appearance that Stern was attempting to rig the power balance in the West for years to come. The Clippers had their best season in franchise history, finishing fifth in the conference at 40-26. Meanwhile, the Hornets closed out the season with a record of 21-45 – tied for third-worst in the entire league.
Gordon did only participate in nine games all year long with a bone bruise in his knee, so it’s unsure how the team would have performed with him out there consistently. However, he can leave the team this offseason as a free agent, something that should have kept the Hornets from desiring him in the first place.
Farouq Aminu only averaged an inadequate six points and 22 minutes per game this season, and Kaman’s struggles got to a point where the team discussed sending him home or releasing him.
There’s a great likelihood that the team would not have had such turmoil had they just gone through with the initial Paul trade. Odom did have the worst season of his career in 2012, as a result of personal issues stemming from both being a trade piece and a rough offseason, but other than that, Martin, Dragic, and Scola averaged 17.1, 11.7 and 15.5 points per game, respectively.
The Rockets also missed the playoffs by a mere two games, as they posted a 34-32 record.
On top of all this, the team with the worst winning percentage of all-time, the Bobcats at .106, didn’t win the draft lottery? You’re kidding, right?
Too bad Stern can’t force the Hornets to give the pick to the Bobcats. He definitely wanted to after the process made him look like a complete sham.