Well, where do I begin? I guess I should start by saying that news that the NBA would be blocking the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers has me incredulous and extremely angry (full disclosure I am a diehard Los Angeles Lakers fan). I cannot remember an instance where I have been more incensed about something in the world of sport. Shortly after the news broke Thursday night I was driving with my brother to our softball game. The entire ride was comprised of me making flabbergasted noises, repeating a handful of statements a dozen or so times and yet more statements that didn't form actual sentences. This was all in an attempt to somehow make sense of it all. An hour and a half or so later I found myself back in the car repeating the exercise from the ride to the game. So, instead of more Facebook status updates or an extended series of feed-clogging tweets I decided it would be best to vent in long form.
I'm sure this fiasco can be traced back further, but let's begin with the NBA taking ownership of the New Orleans Hornets. Obviously, this was not an ideal situation for anybody (with the possible exception of former Hornets owner George Shinn who got out of the business). In taking over New Orleans the NBA, its owners and Commissioner Stern, created a massive conflict of interest when it came to how the Hornets are allowed to do business (like trading Paul). How could a team make moves when all the other teams own that team? Stern however said publicly that New Orleans General Manager, Dell Demps, would be able to essentially run the Hornets like any other NBA team (with all the rumors swirling around about where Paul would end up, no one in the NBA stepped in to say word one about its ownership of the team and how it would need to approve any deal). Back to the franchise and its economic situation, it appears that Stern's intention is for any owner of the franchise to keep it in New Orleans, which does not appear to be so viable these days. Safe to say, the New Orleans ownership situation was in disarray before the Paul trade was accepted.
Which leads us to the NBA lockout. I thought the lockout/new CBA was supposed to address and solve the issues that were plaguing the league financially and otherwise. It's clear now that the new CBA is sort of a joke because within a few hours of it being signed the NBA vetoed the Paul trade, in part it appears because Stern and the owners don't want Paul to dictate where he is traded (I think this is outrageous on several fronts). Anyway, while the lockout was ongoing my enthusiasm for the NBA diminished to some degree. I can only read so many articles about billionaire owners arguing with millionaire players before I just get sick of the whole thing. Even with less enthusiasm for the league I always figured it would only be a short time before I was back to following the league as I always did. So, when the lockout was finally going to end a few weeks ago I was back for the most part. Once free agency and trade rumors surfaced, I was even more back. When the Lakers were rumored to possibly be in the running to get Chris Paul and/or Dwight Howard, I was even more back still. When it was announced that Chris Paul was going to be a Laker, I was all the way back plus some (who won out on the trade can be debated but as a basketball fan, a Lakers fan in particular, it surely was exciting; a legitimate big time blockbuster trade). Then came, what in my opinion will (and should) go down on the short list of the single most disastrous decisions the NBA has made in its history - the trade being blocked. Now I am a 0.5 out of 10 on the NBA enthusiasm meter. This after being 10/10 when the trade was announced.
The lockout did nothing to address the Hornets conundrum with Chris Paul. It really couldn't address it in a really significant way. Essentially, if Paul made his intentions clear to the organization that he wasn't going to sign an extension or as a free agent after this season (which he did), the Hornets had to trade him to get any real value back. We know what happens if you don't trade Chris Paul when he says he's not going to re-sign. You get nothing. You get Clevelanded. You get Torontoed. Paul had leverage and told the Hornets leadership he wasn't going to sign with the team and would like to be traded. Everyone knew that Chris Paul was on the trade block. How many teams were reportedly linked to a potential Chris Paul trade within the last week and a half? At least five. And all along the NBA was silent on any potential trade talk. Never once did they say that Paul was not tradable. Not once did they get in front of this disaster and make the point that any potential trade involving a player on the Hornets would be subject to league approval. Not once did they set parameters around a trade involving Paul or any Hornets player. No, they were silent. Where was the clamoring before the trade was accepted? Obviously, other teams/owners wanted Chris Paul on their team. Where was the foresight? At this point is there any way that New Orleans can trade him to a team that isn't the Lakers (from a PR standpoint)? How would that look for the league? I don't see how they can justify not allowing this trade, but even more so I don't see how they could justify a different trade to a different team. They have set a precedent. If they allow a different trade with different teams, they only dig a bigger hole. The conspiracy theories grow. David Stern and his billion-dollar owner cronies created this situation. They just spent five months apparently trying to solve the problems within their league, but this exact circumstance, in my estimation, is not solvable. Players are going to have leverage in these situations (AND THEY SHOULD!). If you think (or know) a player, a superstar in particular, on your team is going to leave when his contract is up, what are you going to do? It's an unfortunate situation, but if you plan on getting anything in return for losing that player you're going to have trade the player. Otherwise, the player is gone and the team has virtually nothing to show for it. The owners need to realize that players are going to have leverage (again they should) and that the owners simply are not all powerful (although it looks like they were in this case).
The trade itself. It seems rather fair for all teams involved. I don't feel that it is too lopsided in any direction. I certainly don't feel the trade should be under veto consideration. In talking to my friends and reading all sorts of columns, most people really liked the trade for New Orleans and many actually thought the Lakers were probably getting the worst end of the three-team trade. In dealing Pau Gasol, the Lakers were trading away a 4-time All-star and 3-time All NBAer. Lamar Odom is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year. Those guys can play ball and they've proven it (Quickish take: I actually liked the trade for the Lakers. As much as I like Gasol and Odom, the prospect of getting Paul was more than intriguing. He's easily one of the best three point guards in the game, is 26 years old, and instantly solves the Lakers lack of athleticism/penetration. Many people were pointing out that the Lakers were worse off after this trade. I would say that this was most likely the first move of at least a couple, maybe more. I believe the Lakers would have gotten another big man (or two) back through this trade (maybe another player would have been added), a separate trade (assisted by trade exceptions) or free agency. Then there was the possibility of acquiring Dwight Howard - something I believe would have been easier if the Paul trade had taken place). Back to the trade. It was about as fair as an NBA trade gets these days. Unlike recent blockbusters which heavily involved salary dumps, there was legitimate talent leaving and coming to each team. It made logical sense. I haven't seen anyone other than David Stern (and assuredly other owners) say otherwise. That brings me to this, what is Dell Demps to do? By vetoing this trade the NBA is saying that he is not doing a good enough job in dealing Paul and getting appropriate value in return. Who is really making the decision to veto the trade? Stern, and presumably others in the Commissioner's Office are basically saying that they are better at Demps' jobs than he is. This is dangerous. Three GMs agreed to the deal, how is that not enough? Seriously, there has never been a precedent for vetoing perceived lopsided trades. Trust me, I realize that I am having more of an emotional response to this situation because I am a Lakers fan, but even as a basketball fan, how can you like this? Countless times trades have looked lopsided one way or another and they get passed every time. Just like the NBA owners are not guaranteed a profitable business or control over players for the lifetime of their career, there is no such guarantee that a trade will work out as it looks on paper. There is risk in every trade. Stern and the owners have signed off on all of these trades and free agent signings and now this one they believe is not enough in New Orleans' favor? It's nonsensical.
So, what were Stern and the owners on his side (in all likelihood the small market owners) thinking with this veto. What is the actual reasoning behind it? Not that they have their story straight, but it would appear that there are at least three reasons. First, it seems that the small market owners especially hated this deal. During the lockout there were numerous stories about the owners not being unified. Small market owners and big market owners weren't on the same page. When the CBA was finally agreed on, there were more stories that came out about some of the owners not liking the deal. David Stern had to do a lot just to get the owners to agree to the new CBA. On that front, it isn't very hard to see why the owners and Stern would want to play this card. Small market owners were reportedly furious about the prospect of the big market Lakers acquiring one of the league's superstars. So with less sway with the owners Stern probably fell under the pressure - though I'm fairly sure he wasn't too torn about killing the deal. The second reason Stern has given for vetoing the deal is that it's in the best interests of the Hornets to keep Chris Paul in a New Orleans uniform - at least if this is the deal that sees him leave. This makes absolutely no sense unless a potential owner (that has yet to surface) thinks he/she has a legitimate chance of keeping Paul in New Orleans after this season. Otherwise, it is in the best interest of the Hornets to trade Paul while they can still get some value in return. Chris Paul will not be a member of the New Orleans Hornets next year. Everyone can see this. Third, this (from Yahoo! Sports http://yhoo.it/sZfLVB): “In the end, David didn’t like that the players were dictating where they wanted to go, like Carmelo had, and he wasn’t going to let Chris Paul dictate where he wanted to go.” Did Chris Paul really dictate where he was going to go? In a way yes, he wasn't going to sign with New Orleans. Furthermore, he was said to only agree to extensions with certain teams. Doesn't Chris Paul have that right? In my opinion, he absolutely does. Instead of stringing New Orleans along and saying there was a possibility he would sign an extension or sign in free agency next season, he was clear with them. This is the system. Although I would disagree that Paul specifically dictated where he wanted to go in this case, he is six or seven months away from being able to go wherever he wants. This is the system. It was just officially passed on Thursday for at least six years! Just after signing the new rules for the league they pull this move because players can't dictate where they play?! While I understand the ownership situation in New Orleans, it seems that Stern and some of the owners are just making up the rules as they go. "Oh, we can't have Chris Paul going from the Hornets to the Lakers. Let's just squash the deal for..."basketball reasons"? Does that weightless phrase work for everyone? Yeah, you know, it does look like a decent trade for all involved, but players can't dictate where they go. If we allow Paul to go to a big market team this looks really bad for us with the lockout and all." Even with the ownership situation, which gives Stern and the owners more control over player movement when it comes to the Hornets, this doesn't pass the smell test. You know what it really felt like to me as I woke up Friday morning, this situation still fresh on my mind? Vince McMahon and the WWE. I can picture some sort of trade that rocks the wrestling world going down and then all of a sudden...it's Vince McMahon's music. Vince comes out, chest puffed out as always, plays up the crowd's disdain for him for several minutes before announcing. "I VETO THIS TRADE!" He drops the microphone, gives an arrogant smirk. Cut to the wrestlers in the ring looking at each other in complete shock. Cut to black, WWE symbol. That is what this feels like. Am I supposed to take this seriously? Am I supposed to think the league has any credibility?
What I have come to realize with this situation is that I care too much about this. If you know me, you know I love sports. It's a true passion of mine. Sports can have meaning, sometimes sports have large meaning, but by and large it's entertainment. I realize this. I realize there are far more important things going on in the world. This situation has turned me off from the NBA at least for the time being. Sure, I care about how this whole thing ends, but I am seriously reevaluating how much I invest (time and money) in the NBA and sports in general. I might be done with the NBA - at least for a while. I know I shouldn't be this irate about something this meaningless. I need to take a step back.
- There are now reports out that the Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets are reengaged in trade talks. If the trade (original or altered) goes through, I'm not going to lie, I will reinvest in the NBA to some extent (my enthusiasm meter would move from 0.5 to 4 or 5) because the league would have eventually done the right thing. More accurately though I'll be relieved and drained from the experience. If there is no trade or if there is a trade where Paul ends up on another team, I may seriously be done with the NBA for a LONG time.
- I think the only move the NBA has right now, that is if it has any sense whatsoever, is to allow an altered trade to be pushed through. It's the only way the league and Stern save face. They would at least be able to say that the deal was sweetened for New Orleans.
- To all the Laker-haters out there: Say what you will about the Lakers, revel in the team's misfortunes when it has them, but how can you possibly support this decision as an NBA fan? As I said earlier, as a basketball fan this is a disgrace. The precedent it sets, the ability of Stern and the league to operate this way? This is not in the best interest of the NBA, period. This isn't about Lakers fans and non-Lakers fans, it's about the league playing dictator and not having any credibility. Again, just as basketball fans, this is an outrage.
- Where is the NBA's PR team on this? How did they not get out in front of this in any way? Make it clear to the fans that any deal involving New Orleans is subject to league approval. Make it clear what the rules are to begin with. Proactive rather than reactive.
- I'm really wondering how the players union feels about signing off on that shiny new CBA. About two hours after they sign off on the new deal, the owners/Stern pull off a straight dictator move on the players, granted on a team that it owns.
- As I alluded to earlier I got sick of both the owners and the players during the lockout. I wasn't particularly supportive of either side. Well, after this, I am firmly on the players' side. This move proves to me that owners are seeking too much control.
- This decision, if another trade is not forged, was franchise altering for the three teams involved. It has the potential to do long term damage to all three. How is that in any way in the best interest of the league?
- Apologies for any typos, grammatical mistakes, etc. I haven't written anything in a while (this was not easy to write) and I wanted to get this posted ASAP.
I genuinely appreciate your time reading this.