David Stern and The Mishandling of Chris Paul

What is the NBA doing?  Better yet, what the hell is David Stern doing?  I don’t really think anyone knows what Stern is doing at this point given the recent debacle that’s been his handling of the Hornets.  There have been two trades in a week that he has single-handedly destroyed thanks to his inability, or unwillingness to let Hornets GM Dell Demps call the shots.  Now the Hornets, as well as the teams involved, have been left reeling and trying to pick up the pieces.

Sure, I wasn’t 100% in favor of seeing Chris Paul traded to the Lakers.  For starters, I don’t want another super team that will make it nearly impossible for the Cavs or any other small market team to compete for a championship.  I also didn’t want to see Paul leave the Hornets.  I live in New Orleans and he’s meant a tremendous amount to this community.  He’s been very LeBron like in his role within the community and his embracing of everything that is New Orleans.  Now, just like with LeBron, the fans are feeling betrayed and would rather see him gone at this point.  Unfortunately, that seems like it will be virtually impossible to accomplish at this point.

David Stern, at the urging of other owners (most notably Dan Gilbert, which I might add is becoming harder and harder to defend given his part in the lockout and now this), vetoed a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in exchange for Lamar Odom, and Houston’s Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and a future draft pick.  Houston, for its part in the trade was to receive Pau Gasol.  The reasoning behind the veto was “the best interest of the league.”  What I take from that means, “the other owners didn’t like the idea of a new super team.”

One could have argued that the Lakers would have been worse off after this trade.  In the NBA you never want to trade away height and size for guards.  You especially don’t want to do it when you’re trading away your second and third leading scorer from the previous season and placing a ridiculous amount of faith in Andrew Bynum’s knees.  But no, instead Stern vetoed the trade and ultimately all parties backed out.

Then yesterday, the Hornets reached an agreement with the Clippers that would have sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles in exchange for Chris Kaman, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Minnesota’s unprotected 1st round pick in 2012.  Again, this package was more than fair, maybe even more fair than the Laker deal.  Of course, Stern and the league weren’t satisfied.  They demanded guard Eric Gordon be included as well and the Clippers said, “thanks, but no thanks.”  I don’t blame them.  Chris Paul is a top 10 talent, but not worth gutting your roster and future for what could be a 66 game rental.

This is seriously like that guy in your fantasy football league that vetoes every single trade because he feels like it will somehow effect his team, even though everyone else is fine with it, but then turns around and offers you Cadillac Williams, Tyler Palko, and Brian Robiskie  for Tom Brady.  This is how the NBA is choosing to run its business?  Thanks, but no thanks.

There are a few important things to keep in mind here.

1.  Paul is planning to leave New Orleans after the year via free agency, so New Orleans wants to get something of value now rather than getting pieces parts at the deadline or losing him for nothing.  The packages being received by the Hornets more than made up for the loss of Chris Paul and assured the Hornets of a half decent future moving forward.  Instead both trades were basically killed by Stern and the other owners “for the best interest of the league.”  So the best interest of the league is to kill the future of one of your small market teams.  One of the same small market teams you hoped to help via the lockout.  Well played.

2.  By forcing Stern to veto the trade of Paul to the Lakers, Dan Gilbert and the other owners essentially paved the way for the Lakers to make a run for Dwight Howard.  Chris Paul is good and all, but Dwight Howard is the better player by leaps and bounds.  So way to go, this has the potential to create a more super, super team.

3.  If the NBA wants to contract the Hornets, just go ahead and contract the Hornets.  Don’t pretend that you want this team to exist moving forward and then cut its legs out from under it.  If the Hornets lose Chris Paul in free agency they’ll never recover.  Given everything that’s happened I don’t even see how they find local ownership to keep the team in place.  If not contracted, the only feasible option is to sell the team to outsiders and let them do with the team as they please, including relocation.  Everyone in Seattle is giddy with anticipation.

4.  How do the other teams recover from this?  Players don’t tend to respond well to almost being traded.  The Lakers were already forced to send Odom to the Mavericks for a draft pick.  The Rockets were banking on this deal to get a super star and legitimize a plan that’s been in place for probably close to three years.  What about Rondo and the Celtics?  How does that relationship work moving forward now that he knows they were shopping him for Paul?  Even better, how has this effected how teams go after free agents.  If teams were banking on getting Paul or a piece in the Paul trade, what is left for them to get from the scrap heap, especially the Hornets?  I hear Latrell Sprewell is available.

5.  What do the Hornets do now?  They have a roster that is lacking in talent, they have an unhappy superstar, no owner, and a GM that apparently isn’t allowed to even buy his own lunch at McDonald’s without league approval that he’ll never get.  What about the city of New Orleans itself?  The Hornets already struggle to be relevant in a city obsessed with football.  You mean to tell me anyone in their right mind will want to head down town to watch this train wreck?  How many businesses will be hurt thanks to the inevitable lack of attendance?

The whole situation is a joke.  Now it appears there are no suitors for Chris Paul and he may be forced to spend an entire season rotting away in the hell that is the New Orleans Arena.  He’s made his intentions known ahead of time so as not to screw over a team he has given a solid 6 seasons to and a city that he has embraced as his second home.  I can’t fault him for that.

Meanwhile David Stern and his bumbling gang of idiots continue to make a bad situation worse.  Rather than taking what they could get for Paul, they’ve pushed the league straight towards a collusion law suit and, even worse, embarrassment the like of which we have never seen from a professional sports league.  All that’s missing when I read about or watch sports center when they talk about this developing situation is “Yackety Sax” playing in the background.

David Stern is the only commissioner I have ever known for the NBA.  As a result, when I think of the NBA, he’s the first person that comes to mind.  He was as much a part of my childhood as the Ninja Turtles and Transformers.  Sadly, it appears it’s time for him to step down.  The handling of the lockout and now this prove it.  It’s a sad and painful truth that the NBA needs to change…

and it starts with the commissioner.


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