The New Orleans Hornets, recently sold by the NBA to Saints owner Tom Benson, Wednesday night won the NBA’s draft lottery and the No. 1 pick overall.
The Hornets, after a difficult season in which they traded All-Star Chris Paul, have a shot to add another superstar, with Kentucky freshman Anthony Davis considered the best player available.
The Hornets moved up from the fourth spot, where they had a 13.7 percent chance to earn the pick.
The Charlotte Bobcats, after the worst season in NBA history, fell to the No. 2 pick. Washington will pick third and Cleveland fell one spot to fourth.
The league bought the Hornets from owner George Shinn in December 2010 and the sale to Benson was completed in April. The league was criticized for the conflict of interest of a league owning a franchise, particularly when commissioner David Stern blocked a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in December, then approved another that landed Paul with the Clippers.
The ownership uncertainty hindered the Hornets, but they celebrated Wednesday after earning the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1991, when they were still in Charlotte and took Larry Johnson.
The big losers - as usual in their historically bad season - were the Bobcats. They had a 25 percent chance of grabbing the No. 1 pick, but instead will have to take the best player after Davis, college’s player of the year after leading the Wildcats to the national championship.
The team with the worst record hasn’t won since Orlando drafted Dwight Howard in 2004.
Stern has ideas
Stern wants to take a closer look at flopping and referees to be able to take a second look at all flagrant fouls.
And Stern isn’t sure he wants to see his veteran players in the Olympics anymore.
Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver also said the league is committed to sending top players to the Olympics only through London, and then wants to look into saving them just for the world basketball championship and having the Olympics reserved for those 23 and under, as soccer does.
Bird wants to return
Indiana Pacers president Larry Bird sounds like he wants to run the team for a few more years.
He’s just waiting to work out something with team owner Herb Simon.
Amid several earlier reports that Bird would yield control of the Pacers’ day-to-day operations when this season ended, all of which Bird denied, he told reporters that he loves his job, likes his team and would prefer coming back if Simon wants him.
Bird took over as team president when Donnie Walsh left for the New York Knicks in 2008. He is widely credited for turning a struggling franchise into a playoff team. Bird was named this year’s NBA Executive of the Year.
Ewing passed over
Bobcats president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said the team will hire a new coach within the next couple of weeks, but it won’t be Patrick Ewing.
Higgins said that owner Michael Jordan informed Ewing that the team plans to hire someone other than him to replace Paul Silas.
Exactly who that is remains to be seen.
Higgins said “Patrick has a lot of great qualities as a coach and he will one day be a head coach.’’
The Bobcats have interviewed eight candidates for the job and plan to talk to more in the next week or so.
Tough Thunder task
Gregg Popovich implored his San Antonio Spurs to get nasty to take control of the Western Conference finals.
The Oklahoma City Thunder may just have to get ugly if they hope to make it a series.
The Thunder have struggled to corral a San Antonio offense that is clicking on all cylinders during a 20-game winning streak, the longest any NBA team has been able to maintain into the playoffs.
Oklahoma City is in an 0-2 hole as the series shifts to the Chesapeake Energy Arena for Game 3 Thursday night.
Maybe the Thunder found something that works while trying to rally from a 22-point, third-quarter deficit in Game 2.
They toughened up, turned it into a more physical contest, and as both teams marched to the foul line the lead shrank to 6. The Spurs were able to close it out for a 120-111 victory Tuesday.
“We’re a physical team. We have to play that way,’’ Thunder coach Scott Brooks said. “Even on offense, we’re a physical team.’’