Until the World Wrestling Entertainment chairman's little dust-up with Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke, I couldn't explain why I picked the Los Angeles Lakers to beat the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference finals.
In case you missed it, Kroenke Sports Enterprises, the parent company of the Nuggets, leased the Pepsi Center to McMahon's WWE for a live airing of the company's flagship television show, Monday Night Raw, on May 25, the same night as Game 4 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals.
The arena booking was made way back in August of 2008 by WWE, and it will likely cost KSE in the high six-figures to make McMahon take his traveling circus down the road to Colorado Springs.
The double-booking can only be interpreted in two ways, incompetence or expectation of failure. Since Kroenke and his staff have been doing this kind of thing for years and the Pepsi Center is a regular stop for WWE, I'm betting on the latter.
The only way there would have been a conflict with Monday Night Raw taking place in the Pepsi Center next Monday is if the Nuggets advanced to the conference finals, thought to be a daunting task since they have been annually bounced in the first round. So, by booking the date, Kroenke seems to have been saying his team wasn't good enough.
To be honest, when the contract was signed, they weren't.
But the minute Chauncey Billups was acquired in the Allen Iverson deal, Kroenke should have been on the phone, rescheduling WWE.
"Even though the Denver Nuggets had a strong team this year and were projected to make the playoffs, obviously Nuggets and Pepsi Center owner Stan Kroenke did not have enough faith in his own team to hold the May 25th date for a potential playoff game," the always shy McMahon said. "Stan Kroenke is just a bad businessman."
McMahon's feigned outrage was all shtick. A phenomenal promoter, McMahon saw an opportunity to garner some free publicity and put the squeeze on Kroenke for a bigger settlement check. Monday Night Raw will draw a 3.5 cable rating whether it emanates from Denver or Colorado Springs.
In reality, Kroenke was being a good businessman. The guaranteed revenue of Monday Night Raw back in August of '08 certainly looked like the far better bet than a Nuggets home game.
However, it also points to the Nuggets' fatal flaw.
With the notable exception of Billups, I get the feeling Denver doesn't believe it belongs on this level.
The Nuggets have looked like a far better team than the Lakers since the playoffs began, and sure enough they outplayed Phil Jackson's club in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday night.
But, after 48 minutes of basketball, those staring up at the Staples Center scoreboard saw...Lakers - 105, Nuggets - 103.
Missed free throws, Kenyon Martin's rookie-like reach-in fouls in the waning moments, along with Anthony Carter's ridiculously lazy inbounds pass to Billups in the final minute enabled LA to take back a game Denver should have had in its back pocket.
"We lost out on a great opportunity to steal this game," said Billups. "We played probably good enough, but I think we lost the game on poor free throw shooting. We missed 12 free throws and it comes back we lost by two points."
The Nuggets just don't have the look or feel of a champion.
It took the bombastic Vince McMahon to point that out.