A few years back, amid one of those periods of inspection when it came to NBA officiating, the attempt was made during one of his NBA Finals media sessions to get David Stern to comment on greater access to referees.
The question began something along the lines of, “Considering there will always be those who see conspiracy . . .”
There never was a chance for the question to be completed.
Stern’s face tightened. Sweat appeared to bead above his brow. The temperature in the room rose considerably.
The point being that you can debate the quality of Stern’s product all you want. The commissioner gladly will engage in such discourse.
But never questioning the integrity of that product. There is zero tolerance there.
So amid Tuesday’s post-lottery comments from Timberwolves executive David Kahn, about how things fell so neatly into place for the post-LeBron Cavaliers in the random-but-weighted drawing for the top draft pick, expect more than a rebuke from Stern.
The commissioner can make men disappear if needed. This may be one of those times.
Foremost, since the Ewing-Knicks doubts in the lottery’s infancy, the league has been more transparent with the lottery than any other aspect of its operation. You may not be able to sit in a huddle with Tom Thibodeau (and the league still closely monitors what is broadcast on delay from such interaction caught on lapel microphones), and you might not be able to sit in a war room when the Cavaliers mull their draft options, but not only is media allowed into the lottery room, the league goes out of its way to make it clear that such monitoring is encouraged.
But this is about more than the lottery and the Timberwolves’ No. 2 pick consolation prize.
This has international implications. Don’t think for a moment that Ricky Rubio wasn’t notified immediately from his Spanish team management about Kahn’s latest gaffe. It certainly couldn’t have nudged the former Timberwolves first-round pick any closer to the balminess that is Minnesota in February.
Indeed, this well could be one of those by-the-time-you-read-this moments. It’s not as if the Timberwolves are on any defined path to success, as it is.
This was supposed to be when the Timberwolves were to mull the future of coach Kurt Rambis.
But Rambis at least carries a Lakers pedigree. That still means something. Even in Spain.
When an executive is great at what he does, you move past such moments.
When that executive in many ways still is in a probationary period, it makes a huge difference.
The lottery fixed? Not in David Stern’s world.
The Timberwolves’ situation about to be fixed? Don’t be surprised.