By SAM SPIEGELMAN
There was the whole tanking conspiracy theory, in which teams were allegedly losing NBA games, intentionally, in order to improve their chances of earning a high lottery pick.
Similarly, the debate over who the Cleveland Cavaliers select with the top pick is under intense suspicion, too. Joel Embiid was reportedly cleared by the Cavs' team doctors, but there were whispers that his clearance was leaked only to force the Milwaukee Bucks' hand at No. 2 in order to trade into the No. 1 slot.
Now there's a third leg to the conspiracy triangle.
Julius Randle suggested that a team may have planted a story about him needing foot surgery. A projected top-10 pick, Randle saw his draft stock in flux after reports surfaced last week he would need surgery that would sideline him through training camp.
Randle refuted the report, telling ESPN Los Angeles that he does not need surgery and those rumors may have been planted by a team attempting to manipulate the outcome of the draft.
"I met with the best foot doctor in the country and he said he wouldn't do anything with my foot, so there's no scheduled surgery or anything," said Randle, adding that he would be ready to play in the summer league in July. "I feel healthy, athletic. I'm moving great. No problems recovering and I'm ready to go."
Randle said he thought a team might have planted the story.
"I think a lot of it is coming from maybe some teams (whose) motive is maybe for me to fall in the draft to them, or certain teams may want me," said Randle.
Whether Randle's draft stock would have been changed too much by a need for surgery remains unknown, but the fact that he accused a team of spreading such news is the latest example of NBA organizations operating in a sketchy way concerning the draft lottery.
The doctors in Cleveland cleared Embiid so it looks as if the Cavaliers will draft him. A team said Randle needs surgery so perhaps the team picking in the spot ahead of them may be skeptical about picking him?
This seems unheard of, but the more and more you hear about such sketchy behavior the more I believe it. Maybe Cleveland thinks it can deal the top pick if it puts pressure on the Bucks. Maybe Randle will land in Los Angeles if it can spread enough rumors to scare other teams off.
What remains to be see is whether this hearsay works. It's dangerous territory, because I fear that draft reports won't have any substance behind them. If that's the case, we're heading toward NBA Draft reports that are more like high school cafeterias than intel.
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