Beating this Rome-Stern non-story to death … or was the leader of the NBA out of line?

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Jim Rome said he “wasn’t trying to start something” when he asked NBA commissioner David Stern on his syndicated radio show today if “the fix was in” for the league’s draft lottery going to the league-owned New Orleans Hornets.

But the pushback from Stern was enough to create a mini story.

“I’ve done interviews with David Stern several times over the years, we’ve always had a very good relationship,” Rome said on his CBS Sports Network show that aired this afternoon. “It’s been kind of a contentious give-and-take at times, but always a fundamental level of respect. I did not expect that to go that way and that was certainly not my intent.”

Rome used a saracastic tone when he told Stern he thought it was his duty to ask about the fix “conspiracy” theory because others wonder aloud about it.

An unamused Stern not told Rome “shame on you for asking,” then came back at Rome: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

“I don’t think that’s fair,” said Rome, who has no history of any spousal abuse.

“I wouldn’t hold it against you,” Stern said of Rome asking him the initial question. “You and I have been in more contentious talks than that. But it’s good copy. You do these things for cheap thrills … (a) cheap trick. You’ve been successful in making a career of it, and I keep coming on.”

“Making a career of it?” Rome responded. “Making a career of what? What? Cheap thrills?”

“Are you taking offense to that?” said Stern.

“Now I am,” said Rome.

“Now you’re getting mad,” said Stern. “You’re taking on the world and now Jim Rome is pouting. I love it.”

Rome: “I’m not pouting, I’m taking offense … like you took offense to the question.”

Stern: “You want to hang up on me?”

Rome: “No, I’m running out of time but I’m not hanging up on you.”

Stern: “Listen, I gotta go call somebody important like Stephen A. Smith back. He’s up next.”

Rome: “OK, you go make that call and I’ll go talk to somebody else too I guess. Have a nice day. I did not hang up on him, we are officially out of time.”

Later, on the CBS show, Rome said the Stern initial comeback to him “was a rhetorical device. A lot of people don’t know that phrase … They didn’t know where he was going. I understood it. I didn’t take great offense to it. I didn’t agree with it. But the fact of the matter is I thought my question was direct and it was not a loaded question. So I thought that analogy was inappropriate. My point is, I don’t think that it’s fixed, even after that conversation, I don’t think that it’s fixed. But I thought the question was fair.

“I was not looking to start anything. I thought it was a soft ball question, to be honest. I thought it was an easy question. I thought he’d say, ‘Come on, are you kidding? Conspiracy theories? The only people who believe that are whack jobs and people that are out of hand.’ I thought that was very easy.”

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