Earlier today, you read about how a blockbuster trade was undone at the league office level. Now NBA Commissioner David Stern has said that this decision is based not upon the fact that the majority of the other 29 NBA owners (aka: the NBA, aka: the owners of the Hornets) didn't want the trade to go through. In fact, now Stern says it's because this deal was not in the best interest of the league-owned franchise. From the NBA:
"It's not true that the owners killed the deal," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. "The deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons."Basketball reasons? Oh, please.
While true that this deal is arguably a great benefit to the Los Angeles Lakers (who, despite being swept out of the second round by the eventual champions in last year's playoffs, are still only a year removed from consecutive titles), the deal is also a great benefit to the New Orleans Hornets. The franchise is going to lose its best player, Chris Paul, at the end of the 2011-12 season. That's not speculation. It's fact. He doesn't want to play there. This isn't LeBron potentially choosing to stay near home and play for Cleveland forever. Paul is from North Carolina. He went to Wake Forest. His first six seasons in the NBA were played as a Hornet, but he has no obligation to stay.
He wants to go. He's going to go.
Point being, once the 2011-12 season ends, Paul will be free. The Hornets, knowing he would be leaving, tried to do what any intelligent franchise would: unload him for something. Anything. Just don't let him walk away for nothing. There's a reason team's like the Seattle Mariners traded Cliff Lee to the Texas Rangers during the 2010 baseball season. Team's that know they can't or won't re-sign a player deal them before they end up being left with nothing to show for a talented star.
New Orleans GM Dell Demps organized a trade that would in fact benefit the Hornets. Right now, New Orleans has a fraction of a team under contract. They were trading one player for a total of four players -- Lakers star and NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom and Houston Rockets players Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic and a first round pick from Houston (acquired from the Knicks) -- revitalizing their roster. Now, you might say none of the players they were getting are as good as Chris Paul, but the fact of the matter is the Hornets aren't going anywhere anyway, so they might as well get something for CP3 and begin the rebuilding process sooner.
The NBA declaring this trade was a bad basketball trade for New Orleans is lunacy. David Stern is doing this for what he (and a majority of owners) feels is in the best interest (read: financial interest) of the league. A league that just went through a lockout because many of the owners aren't profitably running their organizations. Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cavs flat out said it was about money in his email to the Commish.
Many sports fans already have a sense of distrust in the NBA. My brother, an avid sports fan, feels the league's credibility was more than questionable. It's hard not to feel that way. And I'm not talking about conspiracy theorists who want to talk about Patrick Ewing going to the Knicks -- I couldn't care less about that. I'm talking about the only major American professional sports league with an official who went to jail for betting on games he worked. It's a league where the average fan (and heck, even the hardcore fan) cannot identify what truly is and is not a foul. It's a league that is now being compared to a fantasy league with a vigilante commissioner wielding unchecked veto power.
The NBA's credibility is already shaky. Saying this trade was nixed for "basketball reasons" doesn't help.
"I feel betrayed by what happened on behalf of the sport, regardless of how protective I've been," he said. "This is not something that is anything other than an act of betrayal of what we know in sports as a sacred trust."That quotation wasn't issued in response to this situation, but ask yourself if you feel it applies. Now understand that the quotation is from David Stern in 2007 after the NBA was rocked by the Tim Donaghy scandal.
Once again, the fans have a reason to distrust the league. In a world where Bud Selig is the commissioner of the major American professional sports league that has gone the longest without a work stoppage, David Stern is empty the chamber into his own league's foot with each new step this story takes. It's too late for the NBA to un-ring this bell. To allow the trade now as presently constituted would be to admit an egregious error and lose all trust. To prevent the Hornets from dealing Paul prior to him leaving after the season with zero to show for it would be even more responsible as the stewards of the league-owned franchise.
There will be no winners in this situation. It is unfortunate for a league coming off a work stoppage. The NBA appeared to have "saved the season" by working out a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in time for basketball this year. Now the league is working to save face, whatever it has left, that is.