Playing the Field: NBA conspiracy theories, plus Rihanna in South Beach

Where Have You Been, RiRi? Apparently partying in Miami with J.R. Smith.

Where do we begin with the NBA Draft Lottery? The stage, complete with an odd cast of characters, looked like a cross between Match Game and the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. We had to pinch ourselves — twice — to make sure we weren’t on the moon.

But back to the action. First, the ping-pong balls were gone. The bouncing orbs that used to determine the fates of losing NBA franchises have been replaced with cards.

Lame.

Then, there were the guest panel. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert sent his wannabe hipster son. Sacramento was beautifully represented (and we do mean that literally) by Adrienne Maloof, the daughter of a billionaire. Finally, we present Irina Pavlova, a businesswoman (or maybe a Bond villain) hand-picked by crazy Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov.

We could go on, but we won’t. We’d prefer to see the entire panel in a reality show based on the popular board game Clue.

Anyway, when the pick finally came in … it’s the New Orleans Hornets, in case you were asleep … the conspiracy theorists pounced. With all apologies to Jesse Ventura, we are not firm believers in conspiracies. However, this one has legs.

Consider that the league owns the Hornets and David Stern single-handedly vetoed a trade in the offseason that would have netted them a haul from the Lakers. Instead, they failed miserably in this past season and earned the rights to Anthony Davis, the former Kentucky stud who bought his Hornets swag two weeks ago, with new owner Tom Benson sitting in the front row to watch the spectacle.

Oh how we long for the days when David Stern used to be a little more subtle with his trickery (see: Patrick Ewing, 1985). Look for the folded corner.

Let’s run with the bulls, shall we?

By now you’ve heard that Eagles DE Jason Babin is planning to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain this summer. He claims it’s a “rite of passage.”

We’re not going to disagree with that assessment. In fact, we’re actually a little jealous. However, it brings up the point of what is covered in an athlete’s contract, in terms of non-sports-related injuries. Babin has every right to enjoy this Hemingway-inspired adventure, but do the Eagles have a right to forbid it? After all, he could lose a limb.

On Thursday, his quarterback, Mike Vick, appeared on a Philadelphia radio show and said he was going to have a chat with Babin. That’s true leadership right there. Anyway, this got us thinking of other events that professional athletes should absolutely stay away from. Away we go:

1. Spelunking with Ron Artest. Yes, we know he goes by Metta World Peace these days, but he’ll always be Ron Artest to us — just like Ray Allen will always be Jesus Shuttlesworth. You don’t want to get clobbered with an elbow on a cavernous mountain.

2. Yodeling with Stephen A. Smith. Wow, just thinking about this one hurts our ears. No doubt you’ve endured ESPN’s loud-mouth analyst shout back and forth about nothing. Now picture that echoing in the Grand Canyon. Ouch.

3. Running with the pierogis. Milwaukee has sausages. D.C. has the presidents. And Pittsburgh has its Pierogi Race during Pirates games. We’ve been there and those pierogis are fierce. We want no parts of them — with or without sauerkraut.

Standing under J.R. Smith’s umbrella

Anytime we can sneak Rihanna into the sports section, we will. The pop princess has been spotted hanging out with Knicks star J.R. Smith, the same J.R. Smith that was fined for tweeting photos of Tahiry Booty. Well, Rihanna and Smith were spotted partying at a club in South Beach, maybe even smoking some cigars.

We know RiRi loves bad boys (see: Chris Brown) and Smith fits the bill. He’s heavily tattooed and has a nice little rap sheet going for him. His arrest last week for driving without a valid license surely registered with The Good Girl Gone Bad. Or maybe this is a beginning of an all-out push to lure Deron Williams to the Big Apple.


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