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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Basketball reasons, huh?
Good luck getting that one past the discerning eyes of millions of basketball fans that know better.
The explanation for the league putting a stop to the three-team, Chris Paul-Lakers deal was disseminated via statement late last night, putting the final nail into what was clearly one of the most bizarre nights the league has seen in years.
From the decision itself to the theories behind why it happened, not to mention the most twisted piece of all, Dan Gilbert‘s terse email detailing his displeasure (and that of many other owners) with the proposed trade was, it all just felt wrong.
It felt wrong as it was going down, wrong during three or four hours of sleep were lucky to get here at the hideout and dead wrong this morning as we try to make sense of the senseless.
The league picked the wrong time to intervene for “basketball reasons.” That should have been done long before Hornets general manager Dell Demps engaged in trade discussions with the dozen or so teams that made serious inquiries about Paul. And even then it would have been the wrong thing to do.
Whoever owns the Hornets will have to deal with the reality that Paul has no intention of playing for the franchise longterm. So rather than making a fool of the franchise, a mockery of the process and a bigger mess than the 149-day lockout did with the fans, someone needed to do the right thing and find a deal that allowed for Paul’s departure without totally destroying the fabric of the franchise.
Jazz general manager Kevin O’Connor did it last season when he moved Deron Williams, his franchise’s most valuable asset at that time, before being backed into a similar corner. What Demps was attempting to do was in the very best interest of the franchise and would have been by most any reasonable standard a solid deal for the Hornets (you get three starters, two draft picks and save yourself from the ongoing saga that would have been CP3-watch for the next however many months … you have to take that deal).
Worse yet, the folks suffering the worst today are the players in all three cities that have to show up for training camp, if they show up for training camp, and answer questions about decisions that had nothing to do with them and they had no hand in making.
In Houston, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin have to deal with the fallout. In Los Angeles a wounded Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol will be expected to hit the floor and act as if the night before had never happened. And in New Orleans, Paul has to decide if legal action is his best recourse for being allowed to do what we all know he will do at some point, and that’s leave the Hornets.
Not even “basketball reasons” will keep that from happening at some point.
SMALL MARKET OWNERS HARM THEIR OWN
John DeShazier of the Times Picayune: The obvious problem with several small-market NBA owners successfully banding together to block the New Orleans Hornets’ trade of Chris Paul to the Lakers is that now that they know they have that kind of juice, they can keep rejecting trades of Paul indefinitely. Where will it end?
Do the league-owned Hornets have to trade Paul to Cleveland, Minnesota, Milwaukee or Detroit for those owners to feel safe from the Lakers?
Will the Hornets be barred from trading Paul unless he’s swapped to a team owned by one of the “concerned” blockers?
Or will New Orleans be forced to hold on to Paul, watch him play his walk season and then leave after the season as a free agent, with the Hornets receiving nothing in exchange?
How does that latter scenario help the Hornets? How do any of them?
New Orleans, in fact, gets treated pretty bad if the franchise isn’t allowed to make a deal that would improve the team immediately, and likely makes it better than it would be if Paul stays this season.
Clearly, the personal belief is that the other owners’ concern/fear isn’t only that the Lakers would appear to make out like bandits if the trade for Paul is allowed. It’s that if Paul and Magic center Dwight Howard join the Lakers — and Howard, a looming free agent, is on the Lakers’ radar — then the Lakers would have rebuilt a dynasty-type core without skipping a beat, pulling off a coup despite new “restrictions” put in place by the new collective bargaining agreement that are supposed to make it harder to do just that.
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OUTRAGE ALL AROUND
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: Stern listened to enraged owners on Thursday who insisted this trade went against the entire reason the owners pushed for the lockout, that nothing had changed, and yet it was Stern who made the extraordinary decision to cancel the deal. Demps tried to talk him out of it, league officials said, but Stern was absolute in his desire to kill the trade.
Paul had listed the Lakers as one of his preferred destinations, and it became a more clear choice for him on Thursday after the New York Knicks moved to the brink of completing a four-year, $58 million contract for free-agent center Tyson Chandler. The Knicks lost the salary-cap space they would’ve needed to sign Paul this summer, and the Lakers had been pushing hard to close a deal for Paul with Houston and New Orleans.
As one rival executive with strong ties to the league office said, “Stern cared about two things: Selling that franchise for the best possible price; and showing the players that they weren’t going to dictate where teams could trade them. But now, there’s no way that the league can allow Chris Paul to be traded at all, otherwise Stern is basically deciding where one of the top players in the league is going versus having any fair process.”
Officials from New Orleans, Houston and Los Angeles were stunned Thursday night. The killed trade had ripple effects everywhere in free agency and potential trades, and literally pushed the market into paralysis on the eve of training camps opening up.
“We were all told by the league he was a trade-able player, and now they’re saying that Dell doesn’t have the authority to make the trade?” said an NBA executive who had periodic talks with New Orleans throughout the process. “Now, they’re saying that Dell is an idiot, that he can’t do it his job. [Expletive] this whole thing. David’s drunk on power, and he doesn’t give a [expletive] about the players, and he doesn’t give a [expletive] about the hundreds of hours the teams put in to make that deal.
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LEAGUE WILL PAY HEAVY PRICE FOR THIS LATEST MESS
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the very day that the NBA was supposed to be back, embracing us with this charade of a 66-game season after five months of a pointless lockout, it stepped into the worst kind of purgatory.
What happened Thursday, the incomprehensible events you’d expect from a second-rate, minor league sport, did far more damage than the lockout ever did — or ever could. After years of fans, both casual and hard-core, not to mention the disciplined executives and coaches working in the business, believing that something always wasn’t quite right — something was rotten in Denmark — the NBA finally proved it.
This whole thing Thursday reeked to high heaven, and the NBA is going to pay a very dear price for it.
Having spoken with team executives getting back into the swing of things since the tentative deal on a new collective bargaining agreement was reached two weeks ago, I heard the anger. No sooner had the beleaguered negotiators slept off the 15-hour bargaining session that finally resulted in the deal, it was back to business as usual. After a five-month lockout that was supposedly about restoring competitive balance — we can all hear deputy commissioner Adam Silver‘s mind-numbing, and as it turns out, empty soliloquy ringing in our ears — it was right back to Chris Paul wanting to be in New York, Dwight Howard in L.A., and on and on and on.
“Pathetic,” is how one team executive described the mayhem that played out Thursday, before commissioner David Stern somehow found a way to make it worse by canceling a trade that would’ve sent superstar Chris Paul from the Hornets to the Lakers for what a league spokesman laughably called “basketball reasons.”
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LEAGUE OWNERSHIP COMES WITH COMPLICATIONS
Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: The initial response by the league is understandable. It follows years of simmering arguments that were not cooled by the new collective bargaining agreement, which five owners refused to ratify on the same day the Hornets’ trade was canceled. Bad feelings remain about the outcome of the lockout negotiations, because it maintained a soft cap that won’t prevent the Lakers from outspending the rest of the league, even after a more punitive luxury tax takes effect in two years.
But what did these owners expect? They were asking for expanded revenue sharing from the Lakers at the same time as they were demanding the Lakers relinquish their competitive advantage by submitting to a hard cap. Why should the Lakers cut themselves on both ends?
So consider the environment in which this decision about the trade of Chris Paul was made Thursday. Already, some of the owners were not happy the new CBA may enable the Lakers to flourish as before. Then comes word that the Lakers have essentially launched a new championship era by cashing out 32-year-old Odom and 31-year-old Gasol in exchange for Paul, an MVP-capable point guard who, at 26, is approaching his best years.
One thought surely was to prevent the Lakers from plundering the league-owned Hornets.
Another thought had to involve Paul, and how he shouldn’t be able to dictate a move to a team of his choice while he was under contract to the league as a whole.
But I wonder how much time was spent thinking about the Hornets.
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STUNNED LAKERS LOOKING FOR EXPLANATION
Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register: The Lakers’ trade for Chris Paul was denied without an explanation, suggestion, encouragement or apology from the NBA. Kupchak was left in the Lakers’ training facility late Thursday night with Jim Perzik, the Lakers’ lawyer for the past 21 years and Jerry Buss‘ personal attorney, baffled at what had happened and even less clear about what freedoms or motions the Lakers could exercise in the future.
Consider Buss, the Lakers’ owner who endured the day’s radical highs and lows while hospitalized with blood clots in his legs. More than any doctor’s orders, Stern was telling Buss what he couldn’t do. What a profound feeling of powerlessness for a man who just finishing dutifully standing by his fellow owners and Stern, offering nary a peep of dissent throughout the 149-day lockout despite so much of it being meant to strip him of everything he established through past successes.
Now the right to free trade was being revoked out of the blue, too – mere hours after it was made official the Lakers would fork over $50 million per year in future seasons to other owners through a new revenue-sharing system.
The NBA didn’t tell the Lakers, “Well, we own this team and we want at least a superstar back, so we should get both Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom.” It wasn’t, “The incoming talent has to be younger than Houston’s package.” No one said: “How about Andrew Bynum?”
According to those inside the Lakers’ operation, the NBA said nothing, didn’t try at all to make a deal work, didn’t want anything to do with Chris Paul to the Lakers when it meant giving both Chris Paul and the Lakers what they wanted.