Like many others, Jobu was pretty disgusted by the actions of NBA Commissioner David Stern in regards to the Chris Paul situation. He weighs in.
Thursday night after work, some friends and I decided to go out for some food and a couple of drinks after work. A couple of us began playfully teasing one of our friend, a Lakers fan, because of the Chris Paul rumors that were running around. She expressed interest in having Paul join her team, as long as Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol got to stay. They playful teasing then became hearty guffaws when we found out that the trade had actually happened, and both Odom and Gasol were no longer part of her beloved Lake Show. We eventually began consoling our friend and reassuring her that the Lakers were getting one of the best (if not actually the best) young point guards in the league. We finished up our food and drink and went to our respective homes, not realizing that the next 24 hours would probably change the NBA forever.
The Original Trade
As we at Jobu’s Rum always do, let’s start from the beginning for those of you who live under a rock. The trade was pretty a pretty complicated one, involving three teams and six players. It broke down pretty much like this: The Lakers would end up with PG Chris Paul from the Hornets, The Rockets would end up with C Pau Gasol from the Lakers, and the Hornets would end up PF Luis Scola, PG Goran Dragic, SG Kevin Martin and PF/SF Lamar Odom from the Rockets and the Lakers combined.
Shortly after this trade was agreed upon, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert (he of the angry letter to the departing Lebron James fame) wrote another angry letter. This one was to Commissioner Stern, and it was a demand that Stern block the trade in question. Why? Seems Dan Gilbert and the other owners felt that this trade was just another sad example of the rich getting richer. Gilbert admonished the trade, claiming that it went against everything the owners and players had just spent months arguing about. What was the point of the lockout if something like this was allowed to happen? The lockout was about parity and putting all of the league franchises on more common ground. This trade basically spits in the face of all of that by letting the Lakers get yet another superstar to keep their dynasty going.
Instead of looking at the facts and convincing the owners that this trade was, in fact, very fair for all of the teams involved, Commissioner Stern simply handed over his spine and testicles to Gilbert and vetoed the trade. The real controversy is that this whole ordeal would never have happened if the league didn’t own the Hornets. Exactly one year ago, the league bought the Hornets from former owner George Shinn for $300 million. Shinn basically couldn’t afford to keep the team going, so the league took over for him (with the 29 other NBA franchise owners splitting the costs) and began the search for a new local owner. In the meanwhile, Hornets’ General Manager Dell Demps was given full autonomy by the league. He was told to operate as if the Hornets were just like any other team, including making trades and signing free agents under the league salary cap rules as he pleased.
That’s what Demps was doing when he made this deal. He has a player under contract who has fully expressed his desire to leave via free agency at the end of this season. Like every other team in the league would do if faced with this situation, Demps began looking for trade suitors for his superstar. He found a trade that not only got Chris Paul out of town, but brought back several players that would help keep his team competitive for years to come.
I would argue that the Hornets actually got the best deal out of the three teams. Luis Scola, their would be new PF, is just thirty years old, and has grown into one of the better big men in the league. Last year, in 74 games, the 6’9″ Argentinian averaged 18.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. In Kevin Martin, the Hornets were getting one of the most electrifying pure scorers in the league. Last year, the twenty-seven year old averaged 23.5 points per game and hit 176 three-pointers for the Rockets. Lamar Odom? All he did last year was win the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year Award. His 14.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game coming off the bench probably would have fit in nicely in New Orleans, no? Especially with Scola by his side. Finally, there’s Goran Dragic. The 6’4″ Slovenian point guard is probably the least known of the four players, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t have been an important piece for New Orleans. In seventy games with the Suns and Rockets last year, Dragic averaged 7.5 points and 2.9 assists in just over seventeen minutes per game. If given more playing time, which he probably would have in with no Chris Paul in NOLA, I could have seen him put up some real numbers while running an offense with all those new weapons at his disposal. Look, I’m not saying the Hornets were running away with the trade, but they were definitely getting the best case scenario when you consider they were trading a player they knew was leaving them at the end of the season.
As for the other participants, the Rockets would be gaining Gasol, but losing out on a player who approached Gasol’s level of play (Scola) and an elite scorer in Martin. The Lakers, meanwhile would gain one of the best players in the league (although he’s coming off a bad season by his standards and may have a questionable knee), but lose both their talented big men. The loss of both Odom and Gasol would have left them with Andrew Bynum as the only established player in their front court. That’s the same Andrew Bynum who hasn’t played more than 65 games in a season since the 2006-2007 campaign, when he was nineteen years old. That’s the same Andrew Bynum whose knees have been operated on several times. Finally, it’s the same Andrew Bynum that basically melted down while the Lakers were getting embarrassed by the Mavericks in the playoffs. Finally, would Kobe Bryant even be able to exist on the same team with the so-called “CP3?” We all know Kobe has had trouble coexisting with other such large personalities (key word large) in the past. Would he be willing to share his city, his team and even more specifically, his back-court with another superstar? Kobe has always been a bit of a diva, which is part of what makes him great for Los Angeles, but could have also made for some rocky situations at the Staples Center.
The Aftermath and Fallout
After Stern vetoed the trade, the three teams altered it a bit in the hopes that Dan Gilbert’s baby bitch, David Stern, would actually approve of it. Late Saturday night, however, the Lakers walked away from the whole ordeal. I’m sure that, after coming to an agreement on the deal with the Rockets and Hornets, they were probably fed up with bending over backwards to appease Stern and the other owners, a bunch of people that should have had nothing to do with the trade in the first place. They have since moved on to try to trade for the player everyone else thought they should be targeting from the beginning, Orlando Magic center, and all-around super beast, Dwight Howard. They lose out on CP3, the Rockets lose out on Pau Gasol, and the Hornets lose out on a core of players that could have made them competitive for the next few seasons.
What about all of the players that were involved in the deal themselves? Are they just supposed to just go back to their respective teams without feeling like they were being discarded? Gasol and Odom helped lead the Lakers to two championships, only to be seemingly thrown away when the next big thing came about. Odom, known to be particularly sensitive, expressed the most disappointment with the trade rumors. Rumors have spread that Odom has now been traded to the Dallas Mavericks for a trade exemption (love sports with salary caps). At least now E! can finally try to take on that elusive Dallas market that Bravo seems to have a stronghold on when Khloe and Lamar Slink to Dallas! Anyway, not only did the Lakers not get Paul, they traded the best sixth man in the league to the world champions? They better hope they end up with Dwight Howard (rumor has it the big guy wants to play for the Nets). Gasol, on the other hand, reacted a little more calmly than did Odom, but he did express that the trade talk was “not easy” on him. Nothing has really been heard from Martin, Scola and Dragic, but one wouldn’t expect to hear much from them. They are very solid players, but should not consider themselves above being traded. I’m sure it’s still annoying knowing your team wanted to get rid of you.
One interesting thing that happened because of David Stern’s cowardice was that, like Dan Gilbert said, other teams were actually greatly affected by the deal… just not how he thought they would be. We can obviously see that the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets have had their plans thwarted and their seasons thrust into turmoil, but there are two more teams that are feeling the sting now too. The Celtics were pushing hard for CP3 before the deal with the Lakers even came about. In this pursuit, they basically alienated their best young player, point guard Rajon Rondo. They now have to make nice with him, unless they manage to trade him to the Hornets for Paul now that he’s back on the market. That won’t be easy to do with a player with Rondo’s personality. As a big Celtics fan, I hope that the “Big Three” (Pierce, Garnett and Allen), step in to calm the youngster down. If they’re not going to have Chris Paul, the Celtics need Rondo to have his head on straight. The New York Knicks are also feeling the hangover this morning. They have coveted Paul for a long time. There were even rumors that they might even consider trading newly signed Amar’e Stoudemire for him (just rumors though). Once Paul was going to be traded to the Lakers, where he would most definitely sign a long extension, the Knicks turned elsewhere. They moved on and added a great piece in the form of center Tyson Chandler, leaving them unable to pursue Paul now that he is free again.
Finally, Dell Demps and the Hornets are now left to scramble to get a deal done for Paul, or risk losing him for free this summer. Are teams really going to want to engage them in trade talks now? I would argue that they might be a little more weary of trading with the Hornets now, since whatever they do is going to be vetoed if the other owners don’t like it. David Stern has pretty much come off looking like a puppet now. Should Dan Gilbert be brought into all of the trade discussions now that he runs the league? If they get someone to engage in trade talks, are they going to get anything close to the bath of players they were going to receive in this deal? Who else is going to give you that kind of haul for a player that probably won’t sign with them at the end of the season? David Stern really mucked everything up good, didn’t he? If I were Dell Demps, I’d tell Stern to go stuff himself (thank you Flight of the Choncords) and I would resign. He’s a good GM, and he needs to work somewhere that will actually let him act like one.
I read the following quote from an unnamed NBA Executive, that pretty much sums up how I feel about this trade too:
If you tell a general manager that he has full autonomy to do what he feels is best for his team, and he does that, and then you get strong-armed by the other owners into vetoing the deal for reasons which are clearly inaccurate (the fact that this trade made the rich richer and screwed the little guys), should you really be running the league anymore? David Stern has clearly lost control of the NBA, and he needs to go.
Stern image courtesy of: Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Paul image courtesy of: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Scola image courtesy of: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Lakers image courtesy of: http://www.sikids.com
Demps image courtesy of: Getty Images
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