Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will soon become the 12th coach in NBA history to win 900 games. In his recently released book – The History of the San Antonio Spurs – Sheridanhoops.com columnist Jan Hubbard writes about Popovich’s early years and how he incorporated the talents of Tim Duncan into a team led by David Robinson. An excerpt is below. (You can order the book here.)
There was a lot of talk about conspiracy theories this week.
Seven years ago, the New Orleans Hornets’ outdated arena was underwater following Hurricane Katrina. They played two seasons in Oklahoma City, then returned to a city whose population had been dissipated and disenfranchised. Already one of the NBA’s smaller markets, they struggled to rebuild a consistent fan base. Their owner put the team up for sale, and the idea of relocation became a very real possibility.
So the NBA gave New Orleans an All-Star Weekend to spark the local economy. Then the league bought the team and appointed an executive to oversee the finances while searching for a buyer who would keep the Hornets in the Crescent City. Then Commissioner David Stern voided a trade of superstar Chris Paul that would have brought back high-priced veterans before approving a trade that landed the rebuilding tools of young players, high draft picks
and expiring contracts.
On Wednesday, the Hornets won the lottery and in less than a month will have the draft rights to Anthony Davis, a potential franchise cornerstone. And the conspiracy theorists came out of the woodwork, accusing Stern of yet another rigged outcome and further damaging the NBA’s image in the eyes of the passive fan.
Before you start buying into crackpot theories about magnetic paint on ping-pong balls, ask yourself this: Why would Stern risk both his legacy and the long-term legitimacy of a thriving sport to rescue a team whose TV market isn’t in the top 50?
Make sure the Hornets are really good so … what? They can make the NBA Finals, produce terrible ratings that kill advertising fees and reduce the size of national TV contracts, and make every team in the league worth less?
What was it “Deep Throat” told Bob Woodward in All The President’s Men?
If you want to find the truth, follow the money.
And the money doesn’t get any bigger than the TV contracts.
You say the 1985 lottery was fixed to ensure Patrick Ewing landed with the Knicks to put a perennial contender in the league’s top market? Then why did Stern and the NBA sit idly by while the Knicks stunk for the last decade?
You say the league favors the big-market teams when it comes to the postseason? Then why would it allow the small-market Spurs to reach the Finals three times in five years and produce the three lowest overall ratings during Stern’s reign as commissioner?
You say playoff games are fixed to ensure certain teams advancing to the Finals? Then why would the Cavaliers lose to the Magic in 2009 and kill a Finals matchup of LeBron vs. Kobe?
I heard a pretty good one from an NBA employee a couple of years ago. He suggested that the 2002 Western Conference finals between the Lakers and Kings was fixed because the TV contracts were up for renewal and a New Jersey-Sacramento Finals matchup would kill ratings and the league’s negotiating position.
A well-conceived theory, with some plain-sight evidence. With the Lakers facing elimination in Game 6, they shot 27 free throws in the fourth quarter. Bryant got away with an elbow that could have brought a suspension for Game 7. Tim Donaghy accused two of the refs who worked that game of intentionally extending the series to benefit the NBA. Ralph Nader called for an investigation.
Except there is one minor problem. It makes no sense.
The NBA was going to do all it could to manipulate the outcome of Game 6 to even the series, then send the Lakers to Sacramento – perhaps the loudest, most raucous and toughest road arena in the league at the time – and say, “OK, boys, you’re on your own. Good luck.”
TRIVIA: Who is the last player to score at least 40 points in a Finals game? Answer below.
THE END OF CIVILIZATION AS WE KNOW IT: Rapper Lil Wayne, who reportedly is worth nearly $100 million, made a stink over having to pay for tickets for Game 3 at Chesapeake Energy Arena. When offered tickets for Game 4 by both Kevin Durant and James Harden, Wayne used it as an opportunity to play the race card, telling the Associated
Press, “It’s the players stepping up, but of course the players aren’t white. I don’t want to be sitting there on behalf of you and I’m sitting next to a (person) that’s like ‘I don’t want this (guy) sitting next to me.’ (Forget) you … I’m in Forbes.”
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, speaking to his players in a timeout huddle while trailing Oklahoma City in the first half of the Western Conference final opener:
“Are we having fun yet?”
LINE OF THE WEEK: Rajon Rondo, Boston at Miami, May 30: 53 minutes, 16-24 FGs, 2-2 3-pointers, 10-12 FTs, eight rebounds, 10 assists, three steals, three turnovers, 44 points in a 115-111 overtime loss. Plenty of players have scored 44 points in the postseason; none has ever had as many as eight rebounds and 10 assists, which is why Rondo joined Kevin Love as the only players on losing teams to be honored in this section this season.
LINE OF THE WEAK: Ray Allen, Boston at Miami, May 28: 37 minutes, 1-7 FGs, 1-4 3-pointers, 3-7 FTs, five rebounds, two assists, two steals, one turnover, six points in a 93-79 loss. This was Allen’s second straight appearance in this space. He is doing his impending free agency a great disservice.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Oklahoma City at San Antonio, June 4. If the Thunder want to go the NBA Finals, they have to win a road game in this series. With the momentum of two straight wins, this will be their best chance.
TRILLION WATCH: It was a quiet week on the absolute zero front until Friday, when Boston’s Ryan Hollins – already sharing the postseason lead with Miami’s Juwan Howard at 4 trillion – wrecked a perfectly good 6 trillion by committing a foul. Miami’s “Big Three” of Howard, Dexter Pittman and Terrel Harris all had 1 trillions in the same game, as did Celtics guard E’Twaun Moore.
TWO MINUTES: It was nice of Bobcats executive Rod Higgins to have owner and long-time crony Michael Jordan’s back while selling former coach Bernie Bickerstaff down the river. In an interview with WFNZ Radio in Charlotte, Higgins said the 2006 draft selection of bust Adam Morrison with the third overall pick was made by Bickerstaff and not Jordan, who had bought the team 13 days earlier. “When you talk about Morrison, I’ll just be specific. That was a different regime,” Higgins said. “I wasn’t here at that particular time. I thought it was Bernie Bickerstaff.” It’s hard to imagine Jordan not taking immediate complete control of shaping his team and allowing someone else to make his first draft pick as an owner. It’s easy to imagine him remaining silent now and hanging Bickerstaff out to dry. … After an exhausting overtime loss in Game 2, the Celtics got back into their series with a home win over the Heat in Game 3, leading to a bit of brash talk from Boston guard Rajon Rondo. “They defended their home court,” he said. “In a couple of days, we’ll do the same.” A year ago, the Celtics were in the same position vs. the Heat and lost Game 4 at home in overtime. … Through seven games of conference finals play, 17 different referees have drawn assignments. Among those, James Capers, Dan Crawford, Ed Malloy and Ken Mauer have worked two games, so you can pencil in each of them as part of the dozen officials who will work the NBA Finals. … After Kawhi Leonard went for 18 points and 10 rebounds in Game 2 – the first double-double by a Spurs rookie in the postseason since a guy named Duncan went for 32 and 10 in his first career playoff game in 1998 – coach Gregg Popovich had this to say: “I’ve learned as the year went along to believe in him more and more. Now I just wish he knew our plays.” … Boston’s Ray Allen missed nine free throws in 106 attempts during the regular season. He has missed 12 free throws in 30 attempts in the postseason. When he missed four foul shots in seven tries in Game 1 vs. the Heat, it was the first time he has missed four free throws in a game since going 4-of-8 on Dec. 26, 2007 with Seattle vs. New Orleans. … There was plenty of celebrating in the Crescent City as the Hornets’
tanking rebuilding plan worked, giving New Orleans the first and 10th picks plus potentially $25 million in salary cap space. Also positioned to get better in a hurry are the Trail Blazers, who also have two lottery picks (Nos. 6 and 11) and similar cap room. Now only if Portland could hire a GM. Interim GM Rich Buchanan has said he doesn’t want the job, and candidates include Pacers GM David Morway, former Hornets GM Jeff Bower and possibly Sixers senior VP Tony DiLeo. (Clippers GM Neil Olshey was in the mix until re-signing this weekend.) According to the Oregonian, the problem is each candidate is the favorite of someone different in the team’s heirarchy. The Blazers were not awful last season, although they did take a step back. This could be a plum job with lots of options, flexibility and an owner (Paul Allen) willing to spend. But it also could be a nightmare because of the number of potential masters to serve. … Sixth Man Award winner James Harden did not attempt a free throw in the series opener against the Spurs, marking the first time he didn’t go to the line in a game in over a year. The last time was Game 5 of the first round vs. Memphis in 2011. … Wanna know the secret to San Antonio’s efficient, unselfish play? “When you have Coach Pop screaming at you every day, it will make you pass the ball,” Tony Parker said.
Trivia Answer: Kobe Bryant in Game 1 in 2009 vs. Orlando. … Happy 69th Birthday, Billy Cunningham, the ”Kangaroo Kid.” … Now that Adrienne Maloof has made an appearance at the draft lottery, maybe we can get DeMarcus Cousins to have a cameo on “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.”
Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday. You can follow him on Twitter.
Just a great piece of writing today by Zach Lowe on SI.com that should quiet all the conspiracy theorists (although, of course, it will not).
Among the details reported by low were the winning ping-pong ball combination (6-4-9-7), and the fact the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the mix to win the lottery for the second straight year. But they needed a 3 to come up on the final ping-pong ball, and when “7″ came up Hornets general manager Dell Demps initially thought it was a “1″ and looked dejected.
Lowe also reveals that Demps kept the four winning ping-pong balls as a souvenir, and that a Hornets combination came up in drawing No. 3, and a Bobcats combination came up in drawing No. 4. So they did it a fifth time.
An excerpt: “Acting Trail Blazers GM Chad Buchanan, who was sitting behind Demps, was the first to congratulate his Hornets counterpart. Buchanan himself had just gotten the good news that Brooklyn’s first-round pick (No. 6) would be going to Portland via the Gerald Wallace trade. The Nets would have kept the pick had it landed in the top three, a one-in-four scenario. Golden State owner Joe Lacob was also in a happy mood. The Hornets-Bobcats-Wizards ordering meant that no long shot leapfrogged the Warriors and that they would finish at No. 7, right where they had to be to avoid giving their pick to Utah. Golden State had a nearly 73 percent chance of finishing in the top seven, but Lacob had to sweat it out in lockdown until the machine spit out a Wizards combination. Lacob is still smarting from accusations that Golden State tanked late in the season to increase its chances of ending up in the top seven. The Warriors lost 17 of their last 20 games, traded their leading scorer (Monta Ellis) for an injured player (Andrew Bogut), deactivated Stephen Curry and David Lee because of injuries and handed heavy minutes to untested rookies down the the stretch. Lacob points out that one of the Warriors’ three victories in that stretch was a 21-point rally against the Timberwolves on April 22 — “a win that could have cost us, big time,” Lacob told SI.com. The Warriors needed to win a coin flip with Toronto after the season to secure the No . 7 spot in the lottery odds instead of No. 8. “There was no chance we were trying to lose games on purpose,” Lacob said. “It just didn’t happen.”
I highly recommend you click through and read Zach’s entire account.
NEW YORK — The draft lottery is tonight, and here is a primer on everything you need to know as we all wait to find out who will get the right to choose Anthony Davis of Kentucky with the No. 1 overall pick.
We’ll do it in the form of Top 10 list, for two reasons: People love Top 10 lists (thank you, David Letterman), and if you really need to know more than 10 things about the lottery, we kindly suggest you take a nice long walk around the neighborhood, or go down to the gym and shoot a few buckets or find some other way to take the edge off.
Without further ado …
1. WHICH TEAM HAS THE MOST AT STAKE? That’s easy. It is the Brooklyn Nets. They traded their own No. 1 pick to Portland for Gerald Wallace, but the pick is top 3 protected. So that means that if any of the Nets’ 75 combinations (out of 1,000) of ping-pong balls come in (there is a 25.1 percent chance of that happening, as not just the No. 1 overall pick, but No. 2 and No. 3 also are determined by random draw), they have an extremely valuable asset they can include in a package for Dwight Howard. And if they can get Dwight Howard, Deron Williams is likely to stay. But if the Nets don’t get D-12, Williams could end up choosing to play for Dallas, and the Nets could be left with nothing to show for all their wheeling and dealing over the past two seasons.
2. WHICH TEAM HAS THE SECOND-MOST AT STAKE? That would be the Golden State Warriors, whose pick was traded to New Jersey long ago and was subsequently sent to Utah as part of the king’s ransom the Nets paid to acquire Williams two Februarys ago after they lost out on Carmelo Anthony. The pick has top 7 protection. In other words, if it lands in the top 7, the Warriors keep it. If it is No. 8 or higher, the Jazz get it. The Warriors have the 7th best chance of winning — 12.66 percent. But if the board comes up, starting at No. 14, with any of the following teams missing — Houston, Phoenix, Milwaukee, Portland, Minnesota (owned by New Orleans), Detroit or Toronto — Golden State fans will be on edge wondering if the No. 8 envelope carries their logo. If it does, the pick belongs to Utah.
3. WHO WILL WIN IF THE FIX IS IN?: That’s a stupid question, because the NBA bends over backward to ensure as much transparency as possible. The drawing is supervised by the accounting firm Ernst and Young, there are neutral observers along with representatives of each of the teams in the ping-pong ball room, and there can’t be any bent envelopes like there were in the 1985 Patrick Ewing lottery (click here for the video evidence). But if the fix were somehow to be in, the Hornets would win because it was David Stern who vetoed their original Chris Paul to the Lakers trade and signed off on the subsequent Clippers deal because it included Minnesota’s unprotected pick (which has a 3.97 percent chance of landing in the top 3.)
4. HOW OFTEN DOES THE FAVORITE WIN THE LOTTERY? This is a question of particular concern to Bobcats fans, who have a 25 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick and a 64.19 percent chance of landing in the top 3. Since the current lottery format was adopted in 1994, the No. 1 pre-slotted team hasn’t retained the No. 1 pick since Orlando did it in 2004. The No. 1 pre-slotted team has dropped out of the top three 11 times, most recently in 2009 (Sacramento).
5. HOW OFTEN DOES A LONG-SHOT COME IN? Under the current format in place since ’94, only six teams slotted seventh or lower have moved up to the top three. The most recent time it happened was last year, when Cleveland owned the Clippers’ pick and moved from No. 8 to No. 1 and took Kyrie Irving. The team slotted 14th has never moved up, the No. 13 team has moved up only once (Charlotte to 3rd in 1999), the No. 12 team has never hit, the No. 11 team has moved up only once (Orlando, 1993, No. 1 overall), the No. 10 pick has moved up once (1990, Charlotte, to 2nd), the No. 9 pick has moved up once (Chicago, 2009, to No. 1 overall); and last year was the first time the No. 8 pick moved up to No. 1.
6. HOW CERTAIN IS IT THAT DAVIS WILL BE CHOSEN FIRST? That’s a virtual lock. The Kentucky freshman has a defensive presence that many are comparing to Bill Russell, the greatest defensive big man ever. He was profiled on this site by Adam Zagoria early this season, every mock draft on the Internet has him going No. 1, and he has been added to the Team USA roster for the 2012 Olympics — although he still has to make the team when they cut down to the final 12. But this is the first time Jerry Colangelo has put a college player on the senior team, rather than the U.S. Select Team.
7. WHAT WILL BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?: What is it the real estate folks say? Location, location, location. After years of being held at the NBA-TV studios in Secaucus, N.J., the lottery is moving the middle of Manhattan this year, Times Square to be exact, because the studios in Secaucus no longer exist (that money pit was closed as part of Turner Sports taking over a big part of NBA.com and NBA Entertainment). And unlike in past years, commissioner David Stern will not be doing his lottery news conference from inside a portable tent. (They used to put one up in the parking lot in Secaucus to house the festivities).
8. WHO WILL BE CONSPICUOUSLY ABSENT? Same as always, the team that hasn’t been there for a decade and a half, the team that wears silver and black and is currently engaged in the NBA’s Western Conference finals. The San Antonio Spurs haven’t been in a draft lottery since 1997, when they won it (and took Tim Duncan), and they have been in only three draft lotteries all-time. But that is not the fewest. The Lakers hold that distinction with just two appearances (1994 and 2005), while their hallway rivals, the Clippers, have been in it an NBA-high 22. But the Clippers will not be in it this year, nor will the Timberwolves, who haven’t missed one since 2004.
9. WHO WILL BE IN THE ELGIN BAYLOR SEATS? Baylor was such a fixture when he was running the lottery, it became a running joke that he had a permanent seat. Among the representatives this year are Irina Pavlova, the Russian colleague of Mikhail Prokhorov, who will be representing Brooklyn; Nick Gilbert, the 15-year-old son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert who will be without his lucky bow tie; Adrienne Maloof-Nassif, the sister of better known Sacramento Kings owners Gavin and Joe Maloof, and active players Wes Mathews (Portland), Chandler Parsons (Rockets), and Brandon Knight (Pistons).
10. WHO IS GOING TO WIN IT? How the heck should I know? All I know is that everyone attending, myself included, is a winner by not having to drive out to Secaucus.
There was more than a little head-scratching when the Most Improved Player voting was released Friday.
In addition to Ryan Anderson undeservedly winning the award, a scan of the balloting showed a single first-place vote going to Andrew Bogut.
Bogut played just 12 games this season, driven to the sidelines by a pair of injuries. He also was dealt from Milwaukee to Golden State at the trading deadline. In addition, all of his numbers – except his formerly horrific free-throw shooting – were down from last season.
The idea that Bogut could get a first-place vote was chalked up to a possible homer voter or a practical joke. But it seems no one considered that Ernst & Young, the accounting firm used by the NBA for official tabulation of many of the league’s mathematical needs, could have botched the count.
But that’s exactly what Ernst & Young did. The NBA sent a release Sunday admitting the error and stating that the vote that went to Bogut should have been given to Andrew Bynum.
It appears to be an honest mistake, one that removes Bogut from the list of players receiving votes and elevates Bynum to sole possession of fourth place with 101 points.
Ernst & Young also handles the draft lottery drawing for the NBA later this month. Let’s hope the firm has gotten all of its mistakes out of its system and Anthony Davis doesn’t wind up with the Miami Heat.