Good news! David Stern just agreed to veto my last 3 gambling bets, ill-advised stock market investments, and sexually transmitted diseases that I’m pretty sure I caught back in 2002. The funny thing is that I was perfectly content hiding in my hole that I had been rotting in these past 5 months, with my interest waning in the NBA as evidenced by the fact that I’ve been inspired to produce a whopping total of one article since the lockout began.
And then David Stern came along and yanked me right back into reality.
Just when I thought I was out….
In what has to be one of the most bizarre events in NBA history, David Stern vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers, and instead of CP3 becoming the Lakers’ second greatest point guard ever, he became the equivalent of a repossessed Oldsmobile. The NBA then tried to justify the absurdity of this action by citing “basketball decision”, which now officially ranks right up there with Lebron’s “I’m only televising this spectacle to help the Boys and Girls Club of America” Decision…… and that’s when our collective bull shit meters went off the scale.
Look, I am not a Laker fan. But even the most ardent Celtic fan has to admit that lady luck bounced the wrong direction for the Lakers on this one, and I can’t blame their fans one bit for being irate.
Before I elaborate, understand that the NBA and their owners had every right to make this decision. Since the New Orleans Hornets are without an ownership group, they become technically owned by the NBA and it’s Board of Governors. As such, they have every right to veto any trade that comes their way, just as Jerry Buss or Mark Cuban would have the right to veto trades for players on their own team. Ironically, even though the owners were well within their rights to vote and veto the recent CP3 trade, it never actually even came to that: Stern, who represents the owners, did the dirty work himself.
The problem of course rests with the expectations, or lack thereof that the NBA has set with Hornets’ management. If the NBA and their owners were really going to act like owners, then act like owners, and get involved in the day-to-day activities of the Hornets such as competing for free agent signings, and working to construct trades that would be in the best interest of the team. Engage just as you would for your own organization.
But do you really think that happened?
The Hornets should have been able to continue conducting business as usual without having the rug suddenly pulled out from under them. More disturbing however, is that had David Stern done his job back in 1999, and ousted George Shin after he embarrassed the city of Charlotte, or even sold the team to a new ownership group once he finally wrestled the team away from Shin in 2010, we would have never been in this mess. The Hornets would have had a legitimate ownership group and thereby the freedom to make their own decisions.
The so-called “basketball decision” however, is of course the collective vengeance being exerted by disgruntled small market owners around the league who are hell bent on ensuring competitive balance by limiting choice in player movement. After all, if the lockout taught us fans anything, it is that we’re REALLY clamoring for that nationally televised NBA Finals between the Sacramento Kings and the Charlotte Bobcats. Who knew?
The Lakers were positioned to acquire Chris Paul because they are well managed, have a desirable destination, and have collected the right assets over time to make a deal. Was this an even trade? No. Would the Hornets have made out with close-to-even value? Somewhat. But then again, I did not receive my asking price of $15,000 for my 1987 Honda last year. Such is life when you fail to have leverage and Dale Demps did the best with what little he had.
However, don’t despair Laker fans, I’m here to tell you that you should be rejoicing in the fact that this deal never happened. While the long-term prospects for fielding a competitive Laker team with CP3 would have been strong, the short term championship prospects were not nearly as appealing. I know that basketball fans believe that throwing a bunch of superstars in a pot and stirring them up equates to championships, but chemistry is of utmost importance, and a backcourt of CP3 and Kobe Bryant would not have yielded the same level of chemistry that their current squad has today. The biggest issue? Both CP3 and Bryant are at their best when the ball is in their hands, facilitating the half-court offense, continually breaking down defenses, and creating opportunities for their teammates. The problem though is that there is only one basketball, and only one facilitator on any given possession. In sum, putting the ball in one players’ hands marginalizes the other since neither Kobe nor CP3 are accustomed to playing off the ball. It is not where they are most effective.
There are also concerns surrounding CP3’s knee. While Paul showed signs of brilliance during last years’ playoffs, he still has yet to sustain this brilliance in long stretches. Moreover, recovery for his injury typically takes anywhere from 1.5 -2 years, and there are no guarantees that CP3 would regain the same explosiveness that he showed in 2008.
Lastly, do not overlook the underrated Secret Sauce that made the Lakers successful over the past 4 years – their front court size, length, and versatility. While Kobe Bryant deservedly earns top billing as the source for the Lakers’ success since 2008, their interior defense and front court rebounding solidified by their trio of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum, and Lamar Odom, served as a key foundation for their success. By removing two of those pieces from the picture, the Lakers suddenly lose their coveted advantage since it is unlikely that they would have been able to backfill this talent through free agency. While they are improving in one area (PG), they are sacraficing in two others (PF and Depth).
Regardless, this saga is not over. The Lakers will now set their sights on Dwight Howard and anyone who has followed the NBA during the past 30 years knows that Laker magic happens once every 5-7 years. Howard remains the Lakers’ real prize and they should be well positioned to make a strong run.
Until then, stay tuned.