Friday, December 16, 2011

Breaking down the Chris Paul trade aftermath

Two days after the most recent blockbuster trade that shipped Chris Paul from the league-owned New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers, the dust is still settling and some fans and franchises are left unsettled by how this happened. The end result, Chris Paul is now a Clipper, and the NBA office is about as credible as a politician. This deal was absolutely going to get done without a doubt, no matter what. It had to. If not, then David Stern would transform from pariah to parasite.

“Let’s not talk too much about how the sausage was made,” Stern said late Wednesday after the trade sending Paul to the Clippers had been completed.

Of course he doesn't want to focus on that. This is the same butcher who didn't wash he hands before grabbing fistfuls of meat.

When the league nixed the three-way trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers for what is claimed to be "basketball reasons," they were then putting themselves under the gun to make some trade -- any trade -- happen before Chris Paul played out his final year in New Orleans. Had Paul left for nothing in return, fans would have an eternal gripe with the NBA more so than any team that ever had Tim Donaghy ref a game. The league had to make a move but the Lakers removed themselves from the bidding when they dealt Lamar Odom to Dallas. The only serious bidder willing to negotiate with the equivalent of a basketball terrorist in Stern was the Clippers.

When Paul made it clear he wouldn't sign a contract extension with the Hornets and was interested in playing in Los Angeles, the Clippers watched while the Lakers' three-team trade for Paul was blocked by the NBA last week - and then they pounced, offering a deal that not even Commissioner David Stern could reject.

"It was a pivotal moment for us," Olshey said. "It took a long time to accumulate the assets for a deal like this."

It seems everyone can move forward as the 2011-2012 season is now nine days from tip off. Except when you consider all the different moving pieces it took for the Clippers, the last serious bidder, to pull off this deal -- a deal where they were bidding against no one else, why did they eventually cave and offer the king's ransom for which David Stern was asking?

It was just earlier this week that the Clippers-Hornets trade talks fell through after the NBA raised its asking price, demanding not only the unprotected Minnesota draft pick but also Eric Gordon, the Clippers top two trade assets. So what changed? Why were the Clippers willing to meet the demands after initially walking away from the table? Well, because the NBA needed this deal to happen, so by any means necessary, there must be a way to entice the Clippers into paying the steep price for Paul.

Enter the not-so-crazy conspiracy theory of Yahoo! Sports Adrian Wojnarowski and the curious timing of the Clippers submitting the top offer for Chauncy Billips who had just been amnestied by the New York Knicks.

The coincidence was uncanny: Blind bidding on the amnesty waiver wire, several teams with a chance to claim Chauncey Billups, and somehow the Los Angeles Clippers made the highest offer. All these years owner Donald Sterling was the bane of the commissioner’s existence, and now David Stern needed him in the worst way. All the times Stern let the creep slide on professional and personal indiscretions, the NBA knew the Clippers were the final, most legitimate suitor still standing to bail the league out of its own self-created Chris Paul debacle.

So, yes, the Clippers bid just north of $2 million on Billups, and the NBA has left everyone justified to wonder about the purity of that process. No one blinked. No one voiced a grievance. Nevertheless, this is the fairest question of the post-lockout NBA: From Stern to deputies Adam Silver, Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson, how can anyone ever be sure – despite denials to the contrary – that someone didn’t tip Clippers management to make sure they placed the highest bid?

After all, Stern and his lieutenants were no longer playing commissioner and bureaucrats, they were playing basketball God in the NBA. This isn’t to charge them with fraud, but to simply say: There’s an appearance of impropriety that ought to be unsettling to everyone.

Wojnarowksi goes on to put it a little more bluntly:

Make no mistake: The amnesty bids were shuttled through the same office – the same desk – as the bidding on the superstar point guard. Whatever the outcome the NBA truly wanted, the assignment of Billups played a critical role in the outcome of the trade. It doesn’t matter that the NBA muscled a better deal than the one Hornets GM Dell Demps negotiated with the Los Angeles Lakers.


“Once it was the NBA running things, it was no longer a negotiation process,” one official said. “It was a shakedown.”

This entire saga, what should have been an easy trade to move along a player unhappy with his current situation became incredibly complicated when David Stern interjected himself into the proceedings under the guise of doing what's best for the league-owned team. Really, he's doing what's best for himself and the other NBA owners. Remember, they all own the Hornets, and as they try to find a buyer for the Hornets, they must do what they can do raise the value of the franchise to drive up the asking price. Combine that think-with-your-dick mentality with the fact that Stern is no longer interested in players dictating their "super-team destinations" a la LeBron James last year, and the league was fast to act to prevent the Lakers from reloading. In the process, the Clippers became a legitimate franchise. From's J.A. Adande:

The Clippers died Dec. 14, 2011, and will be a distant memory as soon as CP3 throws his first alley-oop to Griffin. Remove the italics. The Clippers just made their boldest move since relocating to Los Angeles in 1985. They brought in an All-Star in his prime.


The Lakers can complain all they want about the league shooting down the proposed three-way trade that would have put Paul in purple and gold. As the Clippers just demonstrated, trades can come back to life. Except the Lakers damaged their chances of re-forming the trade when they overreacted to Lamar Odom's pouting and shipped him off to Dallas for nothing more than a draft pick and salary-cap space.

So where does the NBA go from here?

Fans in unaffected markets (mainly the Eastern Conference) will go about their business. But out West, it will be a season of chaos and understandable excuses. The Rockets will slog through another year of post-Yao mediocrity without Pau Gasol, who they were just moments away from acquiring in the initial three-way trade before Stern's veto. The Lakers didn't get that shiny new point guard they coveted and are now without the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year and a player that, by all non-reality-TV-related accounts, should be a tremendous asset for the Mavericks moving forward. Worst yet, Chris Paul is now in the Lakers own division, in their own building. The league has forfeited any sign of legitimacy for the Hornets franchise.

Just know, as you watch the NBA season unfold this year, this is what David Stern wanted. Much like the architect of "The Matrix," he designed it. He built it. And he'll have to live with the consequences.

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