The NBA believes in New Orleans.
It has to.
While other cities (like Seattle, which got their Sonics stolen away after 41 years, or Sacramento, which is about to get screwed because inept ownership is intent to relocate) were allowed to see their beloved teams leave, the NBA has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Hornets in New Orleans. Instead of letting the team (which should have rightfully moved to Oklahoma City in the first place) be fairly purchased on the open market, the league stepped in and paid $300 million dollars, all so that other potential buyers couldn’t move them elsewhere.
Because the league believes in New Orleans.
Because David Stern doesn’t want to be the bad guy.
While I can’t think of a single fan base (besides maybe San Antonio) who actually likes the commissioner, don’t tell Stern that. Like the delusional monarch he thinks he is, the man believes he is beloved by all (except for maybe fans in Phoenix, or by the
one half 85% of Los Angelenos who don’t root for the Clippers), and that he is a kind, merciful and just lord.
In reality, Stern is further ruining the respectability of the league.
For the man who took over the NBA at a time it was considered a podunk operation, when it rated worse than Hockey or golf tournaments, it’s a sad change of events. Don’t get me wrong. I do not look back at Stern’s career as commissioner with rose-colored glasses, and long for the golden age of his tenure. His duration has not been without controversy and scandal.
But for all the dirty tricks, Stern used to do it in a way that didn’t make the league’s fans feel like a bunch of suckers in the process. We used to believe in the production that was put before us, and embraced it. Jordan was the best player ever, not because of ‘Jordan Fouls’ or marketing genius, but because he was. We were led to believe that the Bulls were destined to be as great as they were.
But then Jordan retired and Stern tried to capture the same magic in a different bottle. And with every attempt, the facade of the past came down a little bit more. Maybe Jordan had help. Maybe this, maybe that. For every harsh, example-setting penalty, to prove that things in Stern’s league were on the up-and- up, (like the Minnesota Timberwolves-Joe Smith-tampering case), there was a 1997 or 2007 Playoff fight suspension, which rang of improper officiating. For every NBA Cares commercial, there was Stern telling players during the CBA negotiations that, to summarize, “he knew where the bodies were buried, because he buried them.”
It was as if the carefully planned and plotted product Stern had spent so many years constructing had grown too big for him, and was slipping away. It was as if the NBA had changed, yet David Stern wouldn’t. It was if David Stern had become John Gotti, and that the dirty tricks would still work, and people would still fall for them, damn it.
(I realize this is all a little off topic for an article on the Hornets receiving the number one pick in this year’s draft, but bear with me)
For years Stern’s NBA has operated the Hornets, who until very recently, couldn’t sucker a potential buyer into not relocating the team if they bought them. Hadn’t New Orleans already been through enough? Did they really need to also lose the team no one went to watch anyway?
But then they did find a
Then the Hornets beat the odds (insert ‘the Bobcats are so bad, they couldn’t even win the lottery joke here) to get the right to draft The Andrew Luck of Basketball (while the term “The Michael Jordan of_____” has been reserved for a person of greatness in their respective field, the phrase “The Andrew Luck of_____” is, for the time being, reserved for a person of great potential, which is overshadowed by waaaaay too much hype).
David Stern wants to be the nice guy, who did everything he could to keep the Hornets in New Orleans after Katrina practically destroyed it. But for a team with just a 13.7% chance to win the lottery, to have just finally been sold, to then magically beat the odds, smells like Stern’s up to his old, dirty tricks again. With the exception of Chicago landing Derek Rose, not since 1985 has a draft smelled so fishy. It was like Stern pulled the Michael Jordan of Fast Ones. It’s like maybe we were the
buyers suckers all along, after all.
Now the Hornets will draft first, and will undoubtedly take the center everyone wishes they had. The guy Deron Williams wanted the team he will soon depart, if they got the pick, to trade for Dwight Howard.
It’s a new era of basketball in New Orleans.
Because David Stern wouldn’t want it any other way.
UPDATE: 2:31 PM
Here’s a fun little link to a picture taken supposedly two weeks before the draft. Let the conspiracy theories commence.