Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below. This week’s blogtable was yesterday, but below is a special bonus Chris-Paul-just-got-traded-to-the-Clippers edition:
Now that CP3 is going to the Clippers, does that end justify David Stern’s means; nixing the deal to the Lakers last week? Did he do his job as caretaker of the Hornets, or did he stick his nose in where it didn’t belong?
Steve Aschburner: The league and commissioner David Stern “stuck their noses” where they didn’t belong the moment they bought back the Hornets from George Shinn. From that point, though, other than flipping the keys to Price Waterhouse to run in a blind trust, there was going to be meddling in the Hornets’ affairs — the same way owners meddle in GMs’ and coaches’ business all the time.
So I wasn’t surprised — and certainly wasn’t outraged, like some overly emotional souls in the media — by what Stern did in blocking the Lakers-Rockets deal. I liked that outcome on the court better for all involved but taking back fat contracts and guys in their 30s is no way to spiff up a jalopy of a franchise for a potential buyer. The Clippers package is better for that, for selling now and winning later. (Of course, Dell Demps could have parlayed Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom into younger assets too. Just maybe not by the time New Orleans was brought to market.)
Chris Paul didn’t get harmed; he was working on an extension that ran through 2012-13 with an opt-out, so as long as he got paid, the Hornets were honoring the deal. Paul didn’t have a right to be traded to the Lakers or anywhere else. Laker fans are in a tizzy but that’s because they’re spoiled by so much going their way through the years. (They never properly thanked Minneapolis for the franchise in the first place, if you ask me.)
Stern did right by the Hornets. His move had the collateral benefit of pleasing many of the league’s owners and fans, who would have gagged on a “have” franchise adding the NBA’s best pure point guard within days of a costly labor dispute staged in part to avoid that very outcome. The Clippers don’t seem “big market” because of their history and their knack for screwing up even promising beginnings. The league got a little more interesting and, well, if Stern and the other 29 aren’t nervous about New Orleans’ long-term viability, I won’t lose sleep over it either.
Fran Blinebury: No. It all started from the uncomfortable premise that the league has ownership of an individual franchise and could act as a forthright and honest broker. That led to G.M. Dell Demps being told that he had full authority to make deals, a message that clearly wasn’t true, but was disseminated throughout the league. No one told the Lakers or the Rockets or any other club interested in trading for Chris Paul that the league office would have to sign off on the deal. If Stern was going to intervene and run the show, it should have been before the N.O.-L.A.-Houston deal was agreed upon. When Stern trampled in after the fact, it undermined the league’s credibility, gave rise to suspicion that he was reacting to anti-big-market, anti-Lakers outcry from some team owners and, most important, did real damage to the Lakers and Rockets teams.
Yes, Stern ultimately got the Hornets a much better deal from the Clippers, but after a long, ugly and silly lockout, at a cost of the league’s credibility.
Scott Howard-Cooper: He did his job as caretaker of the Hornets — but not at caretaker of the NBA. In the end, it became exactly the conflict of interest Stern should have been able to see long ago as a potential perception problem for the league. If he had stayed out of sight and the initial trade had gone through, the uproar would have been how the league-owned team delivered Chris Paul to the Lakers. It would have been a fair deal negotiated according to the rules by the personnel departments of three teams, and it still would be created problems. Putting the Veto stamp on Lakers-Hornets-Rockets created another set of problems. The image of the league should not have been at risk in the first place. New Orleans ended up with as good a return as could be expected under the circumstances, and the commissioner ended up looking bad to a lot of people.
Shaun Powell: In the end, the Hornets got a better deal than before. That’s all that counts. They didn’t get Lamar Odom, who would’ve pouted all year, or a one-dimensional Kevin Martin, or Luis Scola‘s big contract (which is a crippler to a small-market team that’s up for sale). While the basketball world knee-jerked and screamed and said the NBA blew it because the Hornets would never get anything better, New Orleans did just that. They got one of the best young guards in basketball in Eric Gordon, an up-and-comer in Al-Farouq Aminu, trade bait in Chris Kaman and Minny’s unprotected No. 1 which will be gold in next summer’s draft. All assets and all (relatively) cheap. Of course, the bigger issue is the NBA being in a caretaker role. That must change, pronto, because this is a terrible conflict of interest for the league.
The best the NBA can do for the Hornets, other than the just-completed trade, is to put the franchise incapable hands and wash its own hands of being an owner/general manager. Sell this club to anyone except the second coming of George Shinn, who is a bigger villain in this situation than David Stern could ever be.
John Schuhmann: I really don’t know. On one hand, the Hornets got a better “rebuilding” deal, (the three-way trade was a better “win now” deal), and that might help the team get sold. On the other hand, a situation where the NBA office is negotiating trades is a great opportunity for conspiracy theorists to speculate about what the commissioner’s motives are. It also seems like Dell Demps wasted a lot of time working on deals, only to find out that he doesn’t really have the authority to do so. I’m just glad it’s over.