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The New Orleans Hornets and a matter of serendipity, not conspiracy

Jun 2, 2012, 12:30 PM EDT

Dell Demps AP

Maybe they’re right.

Maybe the league, in the face of unfathomable depths of reason to avoid the concept like the plague (which I have outlined here), really did rig the 2012 NBA Lottery in order to help the Hornets after a rough year, or dot the i’s on the sale of the team to Tom Benson, or to make up for the Chris Paul trade intervention, or whatever. It’s possible. The league is capable of doing it, even of keeping evidence from leaking. It could have happened.

And if that’s the way you want to look at it, God Bless you. I’ve long said what makes the NBA great is the insanity of it all, not its greatness. We like to pretend it’s Jordan’s push-off and jumper, Magic’s Skyhook, Kobe’s lob to Shaq, the steal by Bird, the passion, the drama, the glory of championship greatness. But in reality? It’s DeShawn Stevenson‘s neck tattoo, it’s Adam Morrison, it’s Looney Tunes halftime shows, and Carl Landry‘s teeth getting embedded in Dirk’s arm. It’s conspiracy theories about frozen envelopes and vetoed trades. This is the tapestry of the league.

But for me? The only way I can look at the Hornets’ acquisition of the No. 1 overall pick in the draft is serendipity.

This is painful, but we must start here.

Anthony Davis desperately needed to not go to the Charlotte Bobcats. This is not another treatise about how terrible the Bobcats are, about them being “worst of all time” because they’re not. I’ve seen worse teams. This year. There are teams that played with less focus, less effort, less heart. The Bobcats are short on talent and ability and skill and lots of other things but that doesn’t make them irredeemable. It just makes them bad. I want to say that Davis not landing to them is the best thing for them as well, that they need a scorer like Bradley Beal or a game-changer like MKG on the wing. But I’d be lying. They need a franchise player, and the only one in this draft, even though I’m more bullish on this draft than most, is Anthony Davis.

But the thing I want most for rookies coming in, because I genuinely want them all to succeed, is that they find the right place for them. And that was not with the Bobcats. Davis needs three things. Stability, because all rookies need that, the possibility of success, because even if they’re terrible they need to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and a point guard. Davis has an offensive repertoire which wasn’t showcased at Kentucky. But it’s going to take him a few years to work out the kinks and get it up and running. In the meantime, he needs a point guard who can run the offense and get him the ball. I think D.J. Augustin is a talented scoring guard who could contribute if he were to escape Charlotte. But he’s not a great fit with Davis. Don’t even get me started on Kemba Walker. It’s unfortunate, but maybe it’s for the best that Charlotte didn’t get Davis. And maybe the odds will work out and Beal, or Drummond, or MKG will be that player for Charlotte. God willing, because I’m tired of everyone dumping on a team down on its luck because it makes them feel better.

But no, those things I mentioned that Davis needs?

That’s New Orleans.

It’s stable. You can question that given the league’s reign over them as owners, but the fact is the owner of the Saints took over. That’s the shot in the arm they needed. Monty Williams and Dell Demps… survived! Do you know how improbable that is? If I were Dell Demps, I would have set my office on fire as my resignation this season. If I were Monty Williams… I would have turned into late-era Don Nelson. Let’s just say that.

But here they are. Demps, who has brought in high quality players, and diamonds in the rough. And Williams. I was livid when a Los Angeles writer said that the Lakers being challenged (and still winning!) by the Hornets was a disgrace. It was proof of how little many beat writers and columnists flip on league pass. Because you can’t have watched this year’s Hornets team and thought they were a disgrace. The hardest part of a losing year is getting the team to come out and give a crap. Would you, if you knew that winning meant nothing? But there the Hornets were. They were prepared. They were focused. They wanted to win. They didn’t, because they were without talent. They didn’t have enough good players, and their best player was out with injury. Now they’re reinvigorated.

Demps has been given the player he needs to build around. You don’t think Demps, who worked under R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, knows how to build around an elite big man? That’s the model.  And Williams is a relentless defensive coach, who has been gifted arguably the best defensive prospect in a decade. Davis is walking into a situation with a coach who knows how to use him. Pick and roll on offense, tenacious defense. Davis is in a great position to learn what he needs to and excel off the bat.

They have a point guard, in Jarrett Jack, who can run the offense and feed Davis. He’s excited to have Davis and wants to win. Jack’s a professional and not a diva. But it’s not just those two. Davis won’t be expected to score 18 a game. He’s got Eric Gordon. (For those of you raising his impending free agency, stop. No one goes loose off their rookie contract, the money’s too important, and anyway, you think with a legitimate chance to win next year, the Hornets are letting Gordon walk?) They have scoring balance. And this is before the No.10 pick and adding Damian Lillard or Kendall Marshall or Terrence Jones, or whoever. The Hornets are set up perfectly.

You can choose to think that makes it all the more suspicious that they wound up with Davis. But they had better than a 1-in-10 shot at Davis. They set themselves up success and better yet they’re in a position to set up Davis for success.

You can see a dark cloud on the horizon, I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for a team that didn’t make things wore for itself in the middle of misery. I’m loathe to throw out “Shawshank Redemption” lines because another writer has made that his trademark. But watching Monty Williams beaming on lottery night, this was the only thing I could think of.

“Monty Williams. Crawled through a river of (expletive) and came out clean on the other side.”

You can call it conspiracy. I call it the universe throwing us a bone in this darkened, injury-filled, lockout year.

  1. chiadam - Jun 2, 2012 at 1:11 PM

    Matt Moore is clearly in on the conspiracy. I’m going to fetch my tinfoil helmet (just in case Stern’s satellites want to read my brain waves) and investigate. To the grassy knoll! And make sure you’re not followed by any black sedans.

  2. j0esixpack - Jun 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    The problem for Stern isn’t whether there is or isn’t a conspiracy.

    Regardless of the truth (and I agree, it’s serendipity) many fans are clearly having a tough time trusting the NBA given recent flagrantly botched technical calls among officials who’s trust has been in serious question ever since the Donaghy incident.

    It may not be all of Stern’s causing but ultimately he’s responsible for restoring trust in the NBA

  3. mungman69 - Jun 2, 2012 at 1:33 PM

    Hey, a fine story, Matt. The Horents now will have more talent than a lot of teams. What will they do with that talent? What will they do? I intend to catch them at least once in person. They should be entertaining, they could be good but they won’t be deep.

  4. teke184 - Jun 2, 2012 at 1:50 PM

    The Hornets “won’t be deep”? They’ve got backups for this season who spent most of last season guarding the Kobes and Dirks of the league thanks to injuries in front of them.

    I think that Greivis Vasquez, Jason Smith, Gustavo Ayon, and company will do just fine when playing against second units instead of starters.

  5. detroitcityryda - Jun 2, 2012 at 1:59 PM

    Stern rigged it to make the team sellable with a new star nba is a different org behind the scenes

  6. diablito0402 - Jun 2, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    Nba is rigged 100%, refs control the games on how they call fouls, why not do the lottery live on national tv, why always behind closed doors, because its rigged why else..

  7. ddtla - Jun 2, 2012 at 4:55 PM

    I’m completely convinced Stern needs to go and be put under federal investigation he is a crook. Please don’t make excuses people the Chris Paul trade the Lebron and rose lottery Jordan retirement and it’s just too much.

  8. qmizzle - Jun 2, 2012 at 5:11 PM

    “The Jordan push-off jumper”

  9. djp141 - Jun 2, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    Well, here in Charlotte it doesn’t feel like the universe threw us a bone. But I’m glad the author hopes that the Bobcats find a franchise player, while simultaneously being glad that a franchise player didn’t come here. Because that makes sense. Franchise players shouldn’t have to go to bad teams.

  10. kingbuccaneer - Jun 3, 2012 at 1:40 PM

    Stern has made this league an absolute JOKE.

    That dweeb, Bud Selig, who would do just about anything to get what he wants, wouldn’t have the balls to do this…

    I mean, come on, 7-56???

  11. 11jlacy - Jun 5, 2012 at 12:50 AM

    The new orleans pelicans gon look hella different next year watch out.

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