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David Stern

Saying Goodbye to David Stern

Before we get into the legacy of David Stern, the man who has presided over the NBA since before I was born, I have to level with you: I wanted this to be a straight hit piece.
As the “Goodbye Mr. Stern” pieces have been published on the interwebs this week, I have been taken aback at how overwhelmingly positive each has been. There’s no question that Stern has been successful at creating a global marketing juggernaut, but isn’t this the same man who ripped out Seattle’s heart and forced fans to endure multiple lockouts? At the very least, I expected pundits to paint a complicated picture of a man who had presided over some of the highest highs and lowest lows of the NBA’s storied history.
Despite the NBA being a lifelong obsession, I have a strong personal distaste for the man and his decisions as commissioner. When you look around the sports world, there’s plenty of incompetence to go around: Bettman has driven hockey into the ground multiple times, Selig mishandled steroids in baseball about as poorly as one could, and Goodell’s dictatorship makes Stern look collaborative in comparison. So what’s my beef with Stern?
I’m no conspiracy theorist – I don’t believe he rigged the lottery with a frozen envelope or controlled outcomes for ratings (would he have let that Cleveland-San Antonio series happen?). I think he’s been an egotistical autocrat who’s ruthlessly bullied everyone in his path, a path focused on personal glory and serving owners over fans. He’s the definition of smug and makes intimidating and embarrassing his enemies a sport, even when it’s completely unnecessary. Who else would proclaim he knew where the bodies were buried, because he’s the one who buried them? As we say goodbye to the Commish, let’ start at the beginning.… Read more...

“The Veto” shockwaves, two years later

Almost two years ago to the day, I woke up on an air-mattress with my phone lighting up next to my head. Texts and e-mails were pouring in, unusual at 7am Eastern Time in the days following Thanksgiving. For anyone that’s received a barrage of telecommunications at that point of the morning, there is, quite frequently, a conversation of terrifying consequence on the other line.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Friends and hoopheads from all over had let me know that the NBA Lockout was over. It was Christmas in November.
In the days that followed, my dormant Lakers fandom had sparked and sputtered like a dusty old car coming back to life. My mind raced with the thoughts of how the team–just 18 months removed from a Game 7 NBA Finals win over the Boston Celtics–would try and rebound from a tepid title defense and second round sweep at the hands of the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks. Kobe Bryant was an elite player, Pau Gasol one of the best bigs in the game and Andrew Bynum primed for a breakout season. There was no reason why the Lakers couldn’t win a title with some minor tweaks.
Minor tweaking wasn’t what GM Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family had in mind.
On Thursday, December 8th, the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets consummated a trade that no one saw coming. The Lakers had dismantled their three-time NBA Finalists, dealing the front court that had been on the floor when championship confetti had fallen from the rafters not once, but twice. In the agreed upon three-team deal, LA would send Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom, along with Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round pick would be sent to New Orleans. In return, NOLA would send Chris Paul to the Lakers. Additionally, the Show would end up saving nearly $40 million dollars in combined salary and luxury taxes for the upcoming season. It was an absolute heist, but one that was agreed upon by three general managers and two ownership groups.
(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll)

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Awesomed into submission: A live 2013 NBA Draft recap

“Your enthusiasm is dwindling.”
With a wry smile that couldn’t even begin to convey how much he was enjoying himself, David Stern baited an exhausted New York audience who had already witnessed more excitement in a NBA Draft than the 30 the Commissioner presided over before it. Year after year, a sterotypical New York crowd had booed Stern vociferously with every single pick, pointing more attention towards Stern than the selections he was announcing. And why not? Year after year, the picks were largely settled in the weeks and months beforehand. NBA drafts follow a formula more times than not, replicating mock drafts that have become more a science than good clean fun.
The 2013 NBA Draft couldn’t have been any less formulaic than if Walter White disassembled it himself. At 7:20pm, just 10 minutes before the event started, I turned to my friend Kevin and asked, “How do we still not know who the number one pick is going to be?” I scrolled through my phone, gloriously hooked up with the Barclays Center free premium wi-fi (thanks Mikhail!), trying to get an indication through Twitter one way or another. Nerlens Noel. Victor Oladipo. Alex Len. Ben McLemore. No one seemed to stand out more than another. Kevin, clad in his black Orlando Magic shirt and perhaps the last bastion of central Florida fandom in NYC, giddily looked at me and announced, “If we get Oladipo, I’m going to LOSE it!”
Looking around, everyone in a surprisingly packed crowd was rolling through their phones, hoping to find the latest #Wojbomb before everyone else. No such luck. My search was interrupted by a surround sound booming chorus of “BOOOOS” hailing down on an entering Commissioner, who made a few opening remarks that I can’t begin to recap–because I couldn’t hear them. The crowd was booing that loudly.
Compared to last year, there seemed to be a difference. Fresh off the lockout, The Veto and LeBron James and the Miami Heat winning their first title, there was a distinct taste of actual hatred in the air. The crowd at the Prudential Center in 2012 voiced their displeasure with the Commish, booing him with as much vigor for the 1st pick as the 30th. People were mad at a season nearly cancelled and for some of us, the sense that Stern had acted like Vince McMahon in squashing a league-changing trade.
Last night, the anger from last June had dissipated, with the jeers taking on a tone clearly reverential in nature. There was almost a sense of nostalgia knowing that this was the last time we were going to be able to boo him, and we owed it to the man to show him as much disrespectful respect as humanly possible.
(Read the rest over at Silver Screen & Roll!)

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David Stern Was Right – New Orleans Hornets Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Greivis Vasquez, SG Eric Gordon, SF Al-Farouq Aminu, PF Ryan Anderson, F/C Anthony Davis

Key Bench Players: G Austin Rivers, SG Xavier Henry, F Hakim Warrick, PF Jason Smith, C Robin Lopez

Notable offseason additions:
F/C Anthony Davis (1st overall pick), G Austin Rivers (10th overall pick), PF Ryan Anderson, PF Hakim Warrick, C Robin Lopez

Offseason subtractions: SG Marco Belinelli, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Carl Landry, F/C Emeka Okafor, F/C Gustavo Ayon, G Jarrett Jack

David Stern was right. There. I said it.
Perhaps the lesson was hardened right in front of the Commisioner’s eyes. The mid-decade Sacramento Kings rode highly paid veterans to low playoff seeds in the post-Chris Webber era, rather than sell off those parts while they still had value. Now the franchise is in a prolonged rebuilding process, with not only it’s on-court product in trouble, but also the very soil in which the team plays. Yes, the Kings were able to grasp the last remaining threads of relevancy within their reach, but for the very little success they achieved, the organization is now in shambles. This isn’t to say that poor ownership decisions and the city fo Sacramento don’t have anything to do with it, but certainly a winning product on the floor would help allay the massive obstacles the Kings are facing.
Last December, when the commissioner laid down The Veto, this is the situation he hoped to avoid. This squad that I just listed is the team he had in mind to take the floor for the 2012-2013 season. No, he didn’t want 30-something vets with eight figure contracts like Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Emeka Okafor and Lamar Odom staying for the short term. Sure, they’d either make the playoffs or remain on just the fringes of contention, but a swift four-game first round exit would be at the expense of any long-term growth for a franchise that’s struggled for so long. Stern was hoping that the 2011-2012 edition of the Hornets would have valuable young pieces like Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu, but what he surreptitiously pined for was the team being awful enough that they could acquire a franchise-saving high lottery draft choice. No doubt citing the Clippers, Magic and Cavaliers…twice as recent examples, David Stern had no choice but as acting “owner” of the Hornets to kibosh the potential trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. For it, he’d get an impudent young guard and a trademarked unibrow. Not a bad haul.

This Hornets team is the fruits of Sterns’ bloodletting. From just the sheer physical presence of Anthony Davis, you can see that he’s a potential all-league superstar. There’s no amount of superlatives that can adequately describe exactly how impactful he can be. Still, we’re talking about a 19 year-old kid, who won’t be 20 until the 70th game of the season. I suspect that at the very least he’ll be a force on the defensive end immediately, seeing as he showed a hunger on that end of the floor, while most young men his age are only focused on scoring. I’m not sure if he’s the type of rebounding savant that Dwight Howard was in his rookie season, but he’s shown nothing besides maximum effort on the court. Offensively, he’ll have a lot to learn, but the pure unorthodox combination of his size, length and agility that will allow him to put up 12 to 15 points per game. He’ll quickly become the face of the team publicly (if he isn’t already), which won’t be great ae

MAMBINO Does the NBA Draft: David Stern, the Victor

Taking a train over the river to beautiful downtown Newark, NJ, KOBEsh, Bockerknocker and El Miz took seats  live at the 2012 NBA Draft. Here are some of our collective draft night thoughts and observations.

With his usual, trademark half-cocked smile, Commissioner David Stern saunters to the podium for his 29th NBA Draft. The Commish steps to the microphone to the roar of the crowd. He no doubt spoke words about the excitement of the first-year player selection process and how tonight would be a night that these young men had been dreaming about their entire lives. He no doubt vetted that June 28th, 2012 is the first step in the journey of many to NBA stardom and that we here in the National Basketball Association are so very happy to be at this beautiful arena tonight. He no doubt thanked the boistrous New York crowd that had so bravely made the inconvenient trek all the way out to Newark, while the usual home of the Draft – Madison Square Garden – undergoes year two of their three-year offseason renovation plan. He finally and crisply, no doubt proclaimed that the 2012 NBA Draft is underway, and that indeed, the New Orleans Hornets were on the clock.

I wouldn’t know. The moment the Commissioner stepped to the mic, he was showered with a chorus of boos from the audience in a reception that was more befitting WWE Chairman and on-screen villain Vincent K. McMahon. Stern spoke, and kept on speaking, but barely a word crept through the wave of disdain thrown at him by the crowd. However, unlike Golden State owner Joe Lacob who shrank from the boos of the Oakland crowd on Chris Mullin Night a few months ago, or Clippers owner Donald Sterling who regularly ignores the hate at Staples Center, the Commissioner revels in the surrounding din of this Newark crowd. He hears it and welcomes it. He loves it.

Because he knows it means he won.

Read more at Silver Screen & Roll

Instant Trade Analysis: Anthony Davis to the New Orleans Hornets

David Stern gets: Tom Benson to buy the New Orleans Hornets from the NBA

New Orleans Hornets get: PF Anthony Davis via the number one pick in the 2012 NBA Draft

That wasn’t a joke, but not in the way you think.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe that Jordan was suspended in 1993 for gambling, nor do I believe that Patrick Ewing was snuck under the table to the New York Knicks in 1985. And I don’t think that the formerly NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets were gifted the number one pick through nefarious means as a sort of incentive for the NFL Saints’ owner Tom Benson buying the team.

However, when David Stern named “basketball reasons” as the main logic behind vetoing the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade, he was directly referring to this possible outcome. What the Commish wanted wasn’t for a team filled with crafty vets like Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom and Emeka Okafor to make the playoffs as an easy first-round out, leaving them with middling draft prospects, little salary cap room and no young players. Stern wanted the team to be left without cap-clogging contracts (like that of Martin and Scola) and a high draft pick, so that the new owner could re-make the Hornets in whatever vision he saw fit. Although he couldn’t have projected that New Orleans would be bestowed with such fortune as the number one overall pick, he certainly knew exactly what he was doing when he changed the course of the 2011-2012 NBA season mid-December.

Anthony Davis isn’t just a great power forward with a lot of tools – he’s a potential franchise-changing big man. “The Brow”, an unfortunate nickname bestowed upon him in honor of the “unique” haircut directly above his eyes, legendarily grew 8 inches between his freshman and junior years in high school. As a 6’4″ sophomore, Davis learned how to play the game as a guard rather than a big. Thus, as you’ve seen his entire year at Kentucky, Davis has one of the most complete packages available in any prospect this side of LeBron James.

Still a teenager, Davis is already a defensive difference maker. He led the nation in blocks, and he looks like an elite rebounder. He has a fantastic motor, rarely quits on plays, and most of all, seems to relish defending. Offensively he’s still a bit raw, but has shown the propensity to put the ball on the floor much like a guard, as mentioned above. However, with great hands and a seemingly high basketball IQ, the biggest knock on Davis is that he needs to put on weight an muscle. If this entire description of him seems a bit cliche, it’s because in his frenshman season at Kentucky, the Brow has shown scouts everything they’ve wanted to see out of someone who could be an NBA superstar.

For the Hornets, this is a complete game-changer for the future of the franchise. The team currently has a bunch of building blocks in Eric Gordon, Emeka Okafor, Al-Farouq Aminu, Greivis Vasquez and Gustavo Ayon, but no one that anyone would project to break out and lead the Hornets to anything better than the late lottery. Davis surely won’t make the team an overnight contender, but he certainly could help elevate them to fringe playoff contention, much like Derrick Rose, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony in their first years. He’s coach Monty Williams’ dream prospect – a defensive-minded star who will commit himself fully to doing anything to win.

New Orleans needed this, not just to resucitate their franchise, but also to … Read more...

Dan Gilbert Can’t Stop Crying

Just a couple days ago, my buddy Fatass took his first law school exam. When I asked him how it went, he was calm, cool, and collected (very un-Fatass, for anyone who has had the opportunity of hearing him speak). Unfortunately, he couldn’t say the same for his peers. According to him, these people questioned every minute detail of the test they had just finished. I of course was amused, seeing as how I bore witness to this first-hand during my own legal education.

There is nothing to gain from worrying about something for which you no longer have control. Words to live by.

When LeBron James infamously declared that his talents would call South Beach home, most fans, including me, forgave the city of Cleveland for rioting all over their own streets. We forgave them for setting fire to LeBron’s Cavaliers jersey. And when Dan Gilbert inexplicably wrote a letter to his constituents Cleveland fans, admonishing the cowardly decision of LeBron James, we forgave him too, even though it was more childish than the rioting or the burning. As fans of our own teams, we empathized with those actions because we would never want to be in a similar position.

More than a year has gone by, and at the risk of putting a second cliche in this post, time does heal all wounds. But if any of us have ever needed even more of a reason to tell Dan Gilbert to quit it, it came in the form of an e-mail to David Stern last night.

Yesterday, a blockbuster trade occurred between YOUR Los Angeles Lakers, the New Orleans Hornets, and the Houston Rockets. The exact location of all players was to be determined, but we all know that superstar point guard Chris Paul would be heading west to LA. Pau Gasol and Lamar Kardashian would be leaving for the Big Easy. I will put aside my analysis of the trade, partly because we don’t know the full details (and now we might never know), but mostly because my cohort KOBEsh has already done a wonderful job on the subject. (Seriously, he’s getting pageviews on that post like whoa.)

As most of us have learned within the past 12 hours, NBA Commissioner David Stern nixed the deal. League spokesman Mike Bass vehemently denied the allegation that any NBA owner had anything to do with this. But Yahoo! Sports and the New York Times both obtained an e-mail sent by “Buck Nasty” himself, Dan Gilbert, to Stern. In the e-mail, Gilbert declared the deal to be a “travesty.” He suggested that Stern put the trade to a vote to the “29 owners of the Hornets.” (As an aside: the NBA owns the Hornets. It is continuing its search to find a buyer, but the other 29 owners collectively have a say in the franchise’s operations.)

This is despicable. After enduring a lockout in which both sides failed to understand the definitions of “compromise” and “leverage,” fans were buoyed by the prospect of a saved season. Additionally, the whirlwind of news just yesterday about the possible destinations of not just CP3 and Gasol, but Tyson Chandler and Caron Butler, made the hardcore hardwood fans care even less about $254 million over ten years.

Let’s put this in perspective. Dell Demps, the Hornets’ General Manager, was given full authority to run the franchise’s basketball operations. This power was given to him by Stern, and was not questioned by any of the other 29 ownership groups. In a league where the dreaded player opt-out provision leads to franchises being forced to trade blue chip assets for 50 cents on the dollar, Demps turned his unhappy superstar into worthwhile piRead more...