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5 Questions David Stern Must Answer When He Retires

Stephen BabbFeatured Columnist IVDecember 25, 2016

5 Questions David Stern Must Answer When He Retires

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    If you don't absolutely detest David Stern, here's my only question.

    How much is he paying you?

    If this guy solicited approval ratings (or really any kind of approval), his numbers would rival those of the United States Congress. His reaction to the incessant booing at the 2012 draft was a reminder of why he was being booed in the first place.

    He just doesn't get it. Stern fancies himself untouchable and beyond reproach, the product of unbridled power and imaginary transparency. 

    Of course, some of the wildest conspiracy theories may go too far. But, where there is money to be made, it's difficult to guarantee fair procedures absent institutions that are more powerful than those working within them.

    No, Stern didn't direct a fake moon landing, and we can be reasonably sure he didn't cover up the UFO crash at Roswell.

    But that doesn't mean he's made the NBA a fair organization. And he certainly hasn't offered satisfactory explanations for events that risk the appearances of impropriety. He even got defensive when asked a perfectly fair question by Jim Rome.

    Even the most level-headed NBA fan sometimes has to wonder how it is the biggest stars always seem to land in massive media markets like Los Angeles, why some calls go the way they go or how it is that the draft lottery has on occasion produced some timely yet improbable results.

    Maybe nothing nefarious is going on, but if there is, it wouldn't be the first time in history a huge corporation did something shady.

    Here are five things Stern should address whenever he gets around to telling all.

What's Up with the CBA?

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    Wasn't the collective bargaining agreement produced by the the 2011 lockout supposed to address a lack of competitive balance in the NBA?

    Since its inception, the reigning champion Miami Heat signed away a player from the team they just beat in the Conference Finals, and Steve Nash and Dwight Howard found their way to the Los Angeles Lakers via a sign-and-trade system that circumvents the salary cap and the shameless bullying of a superstar holding his own organization hostage to his demands.

    As a result, a middling Eastern Conference team falls to the bottom of the standings, and a Western Conference Semifinalist who's been no stranger to the NBA Finals features a lineup Lakers fans wouldn't have been allowed to build on NBA 2k13.

    Nothing about the new CBA makes it any more difficult for stars like Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul to force their ways to big markets.

    The only things stopping an all-out exodus of NBA stars to the same four or five teams is that some stars don't have that kind of leverage and some of them (Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan) don't even want it.

    But for Stern's part, the league has become anything but more balanced.

    The rich get richer, and the Bobcats are still the Bobcats.

What's Up with the Refs?

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    You don't have to believe in conspiracies in order to believe there's something deeply awry with the officiating in the NBA. 

    That's not to justify the players' utterly obnoxious amount of whining.

    But despite the inherent subjectivity of a strike zone, calls in baseball at least seem consistent. Calls in the NBA regularly appear to be inconsistent in at least two respects: One team may gets calls the other team does not; or, the style of officiating (e.g. its tolerance for certain kinds of contact) changes over the course of a game in ways that may or may not benefit one team unfairly.

    Again, whether there's any kind of intentionality behind these—admittedly anecdotal—observations, it's a problem for the game of basketball, and for certain games, more than others.

    Instant replay has done good things for the game, but there need to be some additional changes, both in terms of the rules, the interpretations of those rules and (probably) the officials' training.

Have You Either Rigged or Been Complicit in the Rigging of a Draft Lottery?

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    Making conspiracy theories sound ridiculous and predictable doesn't mean there's no truth to them. Who knows if there's any truth to them? I certainly don't, and I remain perfectly open-minded to both possibilities until I'm presented with some kind of conclusive evidence one way or the other.

    Did David Stern somehow know which card to pick in the 1985 NBA draft lottery? Was one of the cards bent or placed in a freezer so he could identify it?

    Did the NBA find some way to ensure the league-owned New Orleans Hornets get this summer's first-overall pick? Could such a ploy have been compensation for nixing the original Chris Paul deal and saddling the Hornets with a second-best haul from the Los Angeles Clippers?

    Probably not, but it would make for a great movie.

    And, again, who knows?

    Media are invited to watch the lottery process these days, and they seem to think everything checks out. But would it be totally impossible for powerful interests to somehow influence these things?

Why'd You Veto That Chris Paul Trade?

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    Maybe there isn't a problem with the fact that the NBA called off the original Chris Paul trade (which would have sent the star point guard to the Los Angeles Lakers, rather than the Clippers). Maybe it wasn't a fair deal; maybe it wasn't good for the league.

    But it would be nice to know why exactly.

    And it would be nice to know how it was any different than the deal that brought Dwight Howard to those same Lakers a year later (fresh off the organization's side-and-trade acquisition of Steve Nash).

    It's one thing for the league to exercise so much discretion; it's another for it to do so without explaining the rationale behind that discretion.

    Granted, we're not talking about a government here. Fans really don't have any rights unfortunately.

    But those fans' belief in the integrity of the game hinges on what we're told (and not told). Stern should tell us more about how this decision happened.


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    The frustrating thing about David Stern is that he reacts to all the criticism with so much incredulity.

    The man seems to believe the rest of the world is crazy to dislike or even scrutinize him, and his refusal to address issues with any measure of respect or seriousness is at least in some part exactly what fuels the hysteria in the first place.

    Stern has some explaining to do, and the worst part is that he doesn't see it that way. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, even "league executives" believed something was off about this summer's draft:

    The reaction of several league executives was part disgust, part resignation on Wednesday night. So many had predicted this happening, so many suspected that somehow, someway, the Hornets would walk away with Davis. That's the worst part for the NBA; these aren't the railings from the guy sitting at the corner tavern, but the belief of those working within the machinery that something undue happened here, that they suspect it happens all the time under Stern.

    It's one thing for Stern to be dismissive of fans who will believe anything, but you'd expect him to treat concerns from his own colleagues more seriously.

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