And I thought LeBron James's Decision was terrible. In a move that will shake the already shaky foundations of the NBA, David Stern buckled to the pressure of owners who clearly weren't thinking straight (or, at the very least, about basketball) and nixed the trade to send Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. It's a move that makes little to no sense to me and that could affect the NBA for years to come (and, oddly enough, it also might work in the Lakers' favor.)
To start off, it should be explained that the NBA and the owners own the New Orleans Hornets and, like with any ownership group, it's their prerogative to shoot down any deals that they don't like. The problem here is that the NBA had pretty much stated that they would let Dell Demps, the GM of the Hornets, work without interference. But when Demps chose the deal to send Chris Paul to the Lakers, all hell broke loose.
Despite later spin that the deal was turned down for "basketball reasons" (a comment that quickly turned into a Twitter meme), it's pretty much clear that one of the main reasons that the owners were upset is because this kind of move, a small market team being forced to trade their star to a big market team, that they didn't want to happen anymore. This is why there was a lockout.
The problem with that thinking is a) it ignores the fact that the compromises made during the collective bargaining negotiations left a system in place in which these kinds of trades would and always will still be made (honestly, I'm not sure there's a system that could really prevent this from happening in the NBA) and b) by turning down the deal, they've essentially poisoned Chris Paul as a trade asset, made it nearly impossible for New Orleans to trade him, and now instead of getting maybe fifty cents on the dollar for Chris Paul, they could very well lose him via free agency and get nothing in return at all.
In a move that defies all logic, one of the owners who was opposed to the deal and called it "a travesty" was Dan Gilbert, the owners of the Cavs who just a year ago watched his franchise player LeBron James waltz off to Miami, leaving him with nothing but a couple of late first round draft picks in return. Now THAT is a travesty. The Chris Paul deal wasn't great but at least it didn't leave the team in the utter shambles that the Cleveland Cavaliers find themselves in right now.
But still, Gilbert ignored what happened to him, fought the trade, and got his way. I guess misery really does love company.
The next thing that the few defenders of the NBA owners point out is that the trade was done in the name of Competitive Balance, a rallying cry that the owners adopted during the lockout as they hoped it would get the masses on their side. But in terms of the competitive balance of the league the trade might have actually weakened the LA Lakers and strengthened the Houston Rockets and left the Western Conference even more wide open than it was last season.
Los Angeles broke a cardinal rule of basketball and traded big for small, a decision that could have been especially damaging because their greatest advantage over other teams was their size and low post scoring (teams match up much better with CP3 and Kobe than they did with Kobe and two bigs in the paint) and they also would have been relying heavily on Andrew Bynum, a petulant young big who can't seem to ever make it through a season without getting hurt. And with the new compact schedule and more games in less night, the odds of Bynum wearing down was greater than ever. (And for that matter, so were the odds of the schedule getting to the aging Kobe and the somewhat beat-up CP3.)
So when looking at it practically, halting the trade prevented the Lakers from potentially committing subtraction by addition, prevented the Rockets from improving their team and putting themselves in a better position to make another big move (the trade would have opened 3 million more in cap space for them to go after a big name free agent center), and might have cost the Hornets their last chance to get any value out of Chris Paul rather than just watching him sign with a big market team next offseason.
But let's be real, none of this really matter because that's basketball talk and the only talk that matters is dollars and cents.
That leads us to the other reason being floated for the potential block of the trade and that is that the owners were looking at the Hornets, not as a basketball team, but as an commodity that they are trying to sell as quickly as possible. If they are going to move Chris Paul aka the only real asset that the Hornets have, they have to get something better than a bunch of good but not great players who nobody outside of loyal NBA fans has ever heard of.
But again, there are a couple of problems with this.
First off, approaching the Hornets this way essentially validates the actions of the worst owners in the NBA, especially Donald Sterling. For years, Sterling ran the Clippers to be profitable rather than to be successful. He kept his payroll low, shared a building with the Lakers to cut costs, and did whatever it took (which usually meant watching stars go and replacing them with cheaper players) to make a dime. How can you tell Donald Sterling that he shouldn't run his team like this when you treated the Hornets the same way. What's good for the gander, in this case, should also be good for the goose.
The second issue is that the reason that Demps accepted such a lopsided deal was because the owners and their GMs weren't offering anything better. It's their own damn fault that LA was able to land Chris Paul.
When the Chris Paul sweepstakes commenced, tost teams dropped out when they heard that Paul wouldn't sign an extension with a team and wanted to test free agency after the season. (And you can blame this partly on the new CBA which makes it far more advantageous fiscally for a player to hit free agency and resign than it does to extend their contract.) Still, there were a few suitors but as the rumors started to get sorted out, the truth came out that those suitors were all making low ball offers and that only one team, the Boston Celtics, was willing to get rid of a blue chip prospect (their All-Star PG Rajon Rondo, who by all accounts, Demps wasn't very fond of.) The Warriors refused to deal Stephon Curry. The Clippers, it was reported, not only wouldn't give up their young SG Eric Gordon but their offer was the laughable deal of Chris Kaman, Mo Williams, and Eric Bledsoe. In other words, one guy that was going to leave next year, one guy they might have cut with their amnesty provision, and a mid-first round pick from a year ago who was arguably their 6th best prospect. That is what was being offered Dell Demps. So Demps finally found a deal that got him pieces that he liked that would keep the Hornets competitive (if not all that great) and he went for it. And then the owners realized that the Lakers were getting Chris Paul and they lost their shit.
In short, what happened was: the owners shot down a deal that none of them were willing to offer because they claimed the offer should have been better. The offer that none of them were willing to actually make.
If they thought Chris Paul was worth the gamble and should have been able to fetch more, why didn't any of them tell their owners to offer more? Even the Celtics deal, which was widely regarded as the best offer, was not head and shoulders better than what the Lakers/Rockets offered. And if you, like many fans and GMs, were dissuaded by Rondo's lack of a jumpshot and questionable leadership abilities, then the offer Demps took was seemingly the only legit offer on the table.
But the owners didn't care. They didn't like Chris Paul forcing his way out of town and to the team he wanted. Stern probably hated that as much as he hated being said to having a "plantation owner" even though the former kind of supported the latter. They took a stand and now the NBA doesn't seem to really stand for anything. Chris Paul has hired a lawyer and is trying to fight the decision but I doubt he'll win. I can't see the NBA approving any other trade of Paul because it would have to be MUCH better than the Rockets offer for the league to pass the smell test and nobody in the league seems willing to pay that for what might be a one year rental of CP3. I'd really hate to think that Danny Ainge is still thinking about going after Chris Paul when his head will be in LA all year. I can just see Chris in Boston, getting out of his car to head to practice and being met by the brisk winter New England wind and thinking, "I bet it's t-shirt weather in LA right now." and moping to the locker room. The Hornets are now stuck with a guy who clearly doesn't want to be there and who they could lose for nothing. And good luck trying to sign anyone to play in New Orleans right now. I can't see many players opting to go to New Orleans, an organization led by an emasculated GM, an unhappy star, and an ownership group that only cares about the fiscal value of the franchise and who all obviously and admittedly have another franchise's best interests at heart with whatever they do.
After the lockout, people just wanted to be excited about basketball again. And even if the Chris Paul trade wasn't even, at least people were talking about hoops and how CP3 and Kobe would co-exist and whether the Lakers could win by relying on Bynum and how the Rockets could make another move to add to to their new core of Pau and Lowry and could they make a run in the playoffs, etc..
I was walking home conjuring up trades that might happen when the other sneaker dropped after this deal. And when I got home, I was met with more politics. The economics was continuing to infect the league that I so loved and it was making an already compromised season seem like a complete joke. (And god help us if the Lakers end up with Dwight Howard for Gasol and Bynum; people will go crazy about how the NBA actually helped Los Angeles land an even better player.)
David Stern is hinting at retirement now and he probably should go through with it. His reign had been one of the best sports in general had seen but his last decade or so has been riddled with mistakes, controversies, two labor stoppages, and greed. The NBA was gaining momentum after last season but now they've basically shot themselves in the foot twice and made it so even the die hard fans are questioning whether they should really stay invested in a league that is run like an annoying fantasy football league.
I'm sure once the games start, I'll get over this but it'll still be in the back of my mind. Fans can forgive but I doubt they'll forget. Although to be honest, I doubt most people will care enough to do either. With each new CBA, the owners think they're aiming at competitive balance but what they're really doing is creating a system in which fans have to follow every penny their team spends to know what they can hope to add in the offseason. Trades are more and more about cap space and luxury taxes and less about points, rebounds, and assists. The NBA should be primed for the second step of its comeback but instead it's finding its leader in what my be a place of no return.
In one move, David Stern and the owners turned everyone's excitement about the NBA's return and transformed it into confusion, disappointment, disillusionment, and, most damning of all, disinterest. (And worst of all, if this really does turn off the fans and teams struggle to make money, I'm sure Stern and the owners will blame it on the players.)
The NBA: Where a sad state of affairs happens. Again and again.