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Kahn's non-cavalier attitude toward Cavs lotto win a shame

by | CBSSports.com Columnist

I do believe David Kahn was given to us heathens so that Mark Cuban would not become overtaxed as the NBA's designated semi-loopy contrarian.

In fact, as Cuban has become more serious and less maverick-ish (no pun intended), the job has stood vacant for too long. But from out of the north, under cover of "What the hell was that he said?" is the general manager of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Tuesday, though, he was particularly gifted in the notice-me arts when he essentially declared the NBA Draft lottery a predetermined contest, a version of the cutest child competition.

Here's the fact. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the lottery (yippee for them), and the team's representative was owner Dan Gilbert's 14-year-old son Nick, who endures the tortures of neurofibromatosis. As the representative of the team for the lottery, he serves no function except as a seatwarmer, but it was a big deal for him, and he seemed to have a good time doing so.

But Kahn, either trying to cut his humor too fine or sounding like a guy who likes to be scorned by his fellows, offered a countervailing suggestion when the Cavs got the most blessed ping pong ball.

He was screwed by the very appearance of Nick Gilbert.

"This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible storylines," Kahn said. "Last year it was Abe Pollin's widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told Kevin: 'We're toast.' This is not happening for us and I was right."

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"Kevin" was Utah Jazz general manager Kevin O'Connor, whose response is not recorded. Thankfully for him.

Kahn said he sized up the field when he, the Jazz and Cavs were the last three standing, and his inability to seem cuddly enough, bar mitzvah or no bar mitzvah.

And maybe that's how the lottery works now. Maybe that's why Roger Goodell got booed at his draft and David Stern didn't get booed at his -- children.

Well, that, and no live audience.

But we digress.

Kahn has managed, with the use of Nick Gilbert, to come off about as poorly as if he had been Jerry Lewis at the MD telethon and did 20 minutes of stand-up making fun of his kids.

There are (a) things that are funny in the hands of any-old-body, (b) things that are funny only in the hands of a skilled comedic practitioner, (c) things that are funny with the right audience, and (d) a few things that just aren't funny at all.

At best, Kahn was standing squarely in Column B, closer still to Column D. But funny for the general audience with Nick Gilbert as the mechanism of his words he was not.

Jobbed out of one pick in a draft most folks regard as a weak one, Kahn came off like someone who had been swindled out of Bill Russell, Michael Jordan and LeBron James by the presence of a child with the power to make ping pong balls dance to a tune only he can hear.

And even if Kahn is right and Nick Gilbert brought the lottery to his knees with a bow tie, Harry Potter glasses and a winning personality, then Nick Gilbert has powers one should not want to get crossways of and feel confident of the outcome.

I mean, if he can change the course of the NBA at 14, how would he work at 21? Or 30? The prudent course here would have been for Kahn to tip his hat at Nick Gilbert and say, "Good on you. Hope the night was all you'd hoped for." And then back away slowly.

Or he could have turned to Kevin O'Connor and said, "Next year, I'm going with the 11-year-old girl. If these are the rules, then I want to get on the right side of them."

Or he could have just said nothing except, "We wanted No. 2 all along. This couldn't have worked better for us if we'd picked the number ourselves." I mean, that's what they all do on draft night anyway, right?

So we'll leave with you with this. Don't bet on the Cavs trading the first pick. Even they don't want to mess with the power of Nick Gilbert.

Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com


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