Poking the Hornet’s Nest

December 9th, 2011 | by Jeff Lind

I’ve been sitting here for a few hours trying to find the right words to express what I’m feeling about this Paul/Lakers/Stern hoopla. I’ve got nothing… I don’t know what to say. Instead, here’s a timeline of last night’s events as they unfolded to me:

3:58 pm: The trade was originally reported as follows (by a twitter MUST follow Adrian Wojnarowski):

I was furious. Not at the league, per se, but at the Lakers… here they were pulling off another blockbuster trade, while keeping all their major pieces of a championship contender in place. Imagining the Lakers with Paul, Kobe, AND Gasol was too much. Super teams… you guys win.

At 3:58.30 pm I tweeted this:

And I meant it. The league JUST went through a lockout with a major focus on bringing parity and competitive balance to the league! This particular trade seemed to flush all of that, and let the Lakers trade three quarters for a silver dollar.

At 4:06 pm this happened:

That changed my feelings completely. Suddenly, the Lakers didn’t seem so scary. They were forced to give up Gasol and Odom (the length that REALLY killed the Jazz year after year), and they were left with Kobe (bad knees), Bynum (bad knee), and Chris Paul (no knee at all). In a compressed 66 game season, they’d be hard pressed to come out of it in one serviceable piece. I mean, sure, they’d be scary in spurts… but when you’re playing back to back to backs on those legs, you’re going to have major rotation problems.

The three team trade was supposed to go something like this:

Lakers:

  • Get: Chris Paul
  • Give: Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom
An exciting gamble for the Lakers. They get the (second) best point guard in the league, and pair him with Mamba. This gives them at least two seasons to make a run at the finals with two of the best five players in the league.

Rockets:

  • Get: Gasol, cap room for new free agent
  • Give: Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin
They get one of the top centers/players in the league to replace Yao, and have a ton of cap room to get a new free agent. The Rockets are a team that have notoriously stashed assets for a moment like this, and they finally made their move.

New Orleans:

  • Get: Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin
  • Give: Chris Paul
New Orleans made the most of the hand they were dealt, and turned their all star PG into a core of players they can build around. I’ll be honest, if the Jazz had pulled this trade off for D-Will (who I consider to be better than CP3), I’d have been happy.
Looking at it like that, things seemed relatively fair. I started to feel better. Sure, the thought of Chris Paul on the Lakers forced blood from my eyes, but when you see what LA had to give up to get him, it made sense. And it was finished. Done.

Then at 7:07 pm THIS HAPPENED:

Turns out the league owned Hornets (see: 29 owners and David Stern), were not impressed with this trade, and they were not going to let it happen. Owners lost it, complained to David, and Stern made the final decision to kill the trade. Unprecedented. All hell broke loose, EVERYWHERE. My twitter feed, emails, and texts blew up. Before I went to bed, I had over 50 emails in my inbox, and when I woke up I had almost 30 more waiting. I saw everything from “David Stern was right” to “David Stern has lost his mind.”

Today:
The overwhelming emotion I’ve seen is one of disappointment and confusion. People don’t understand why Stern felt like he had to move on this. Local media is furious, the National Media is gathering pitchforks, and the TrueHoop network is going nuts. NBA fans are in shock. I’ve heard educated journalists say that this is the end of David Stern. Some are even saying this is worse than the Donaghy game fixing.  I wouldn’t go that far, but the waters are certainly muddied, and here’s why:
  1. This comes across like Stern, as commissioner, killed the deal. This isn’t true. Stern killed the deal as a representative of the collective Hornets ownership (the other 29 owners). Boiled down, it would be like Gail Miller saying “no” to the Williams trade at the eleventh hour and (as an owner) it’s her right.
  2. This is the problem with the LEAGUE OWNING A TEAM. It’s idiotic. How can a collective ownership of 29 individuals be trusted to make the same choices an independent owner would in a vacuum when bajillions of dollars are on the line? It’s not possible. Not when the stakes are this high.
  3. If this doesn’t get resolved in a satisfying way, does it hang a “Fire Sale” sign around the Hornets franchise? I say yes. If this trade block stands, CP3 ain’t getting traded… ever, which means in all likelihood he’ll leave for nothing next season. If there wasn’t an argument for contraction before today, here it is… signed, sealed, & delivered. This effectively neuters the Hornets franchise.
The Commissioner’s office has defended the decision with the following:
“All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”
Whether the decision was truly made freely from the influence of other NBA owners is debatable, and I’ll leave it to you to decide if the trade was blocked for true “basketball reasons.” Regardless, I think this trade will ultimately go through. David Stern is getting publicly crucified for his role in this, and he knows it. It’s only a matter of time before public opinion rings so loud that it deafens out his ability to lead effectively. Either he’ll step down, or fix it. I’m willing to bet that with the OUT he’s being offered with team appeals, he’ll ultimately let the trade happen. Otherwise… who knows where this will end up. As fans, we collectively got over the lockout pretty quickly, but what kind of lingering effects will this fiasco leave on the league? Time will tell.

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4 Comments

  1. Darek says:

    Totally feel like this is the conversation that went down last night during the Chris Paul trade… LA = The Dark Side

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=siipB-1Zoac

  2. Walter Mast says:

    Great coverage of the time line of this horrible abuse of power. It is fine for the NBA as owners of the Hornets to veto a deal but they should have been honest when teams contacted them regarding the powers of the NO GM. I doubt talks would not have gone this far if they were honest that NO GM would field requests but finial say would come from Stern. Buss would not have let it gone that far with that knowledge and now LO is not reporting to camp and is considering retirement. How do you unring the bell of a an agent calling a player to tell them they are traded?

  3. J says:

    Thanks for the article Jeff and I agree with what you’ve said. Let me ask you this, how would you feel about the Lakers bringing in Dwight Howard after this trade went down? They essentially cleared enough money off of the books to bring in Howard in FA after this season without even needing to trade Bynum. If the lockout was about competitive parity (which small market fans would mistakenly like to believe) then it accomplished nothing. It seems to me that if the Lakers were required to take on Okafor’s contract then it would make more sense for everyone involved. How is it good for the league for a team to have a top 2 point guard (Paul), the top center (Howard), and the top shooting guard (Bryant)? Where is the competitive balance?

    As for the Hornets… how does this trade help sell the team? If that is the league’s top goal with this team, as it should be, how does losing your marque player and bringing in a bunch of role players that will max out the cap yet continue down the road towards mediocrity benefit the team and make it more desirable for future buyers? Two things seem to attract buyers; a superstar player or enough flexibility to build the team you want. Without Paul, the Hornets have neither.

    This whole deal just seems to be a huge quagmire and is far from over. It amazes me that the day before training camps and free agency is suppose to begin, the league already has another black eye to match the one the lockout left. For some reason I don’t think the sour taste that we are all experiencing is going to go away very soon.

  4. Jeff Lind says:

    J – That would be the true disaster, wouldn’t it? At least (arguably) the CP trade makes the Lakers no better, but if they landed Dwight? Right now, I don’t think there is a clear front runner in the WC, especially with the compressed season, but you put Dwight in LA then it vaults them to the top. The idea of them having Kobe, CP, and Dwight is too much for my head to handle. I don’t think they’d ultimately be able to swing it, because someone would swoop in with more cap and sweep D12 off his feet.

    Although, I would have said the same thing about Miami a year ago.

    As far as selling the team, I think this ruins any notion of that. Unless the Hornets can convince him to stay, which I don’t believe they can, they will truly be full of horrific players. I think the best thing for them was to make a trade like this happen… they could have built around Odom, Scola, and Martin… the Rockets were doing it. By nixing the trade, it takes away that option completely.

    Walter – you definitely wonder how this would have gone if there was a vote by the ownership group instead of a Stern ultimatum. Even if the result was the same (blocked trade), you wonder if people would have at least taken a step back and seen the process of ownership working. As it stood, the perception is that this was Stern’s call… as commissioner, that’s the last thing you want people you think.

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