The NBA just unilaterally killed what, on paper, was not just a perfectly legal trade, but a pretty damn fair one at that. This wasn't another Pau Gasol for fishsticks-and-a-ride-home deal. The Lakers were giving up 14 feet of mad skills for 6 feet of mad skills. Arguments can be made for or against the wisdom of this trade, but what can't be argued is whether or not it was remotely equitable. This was bar none the best deal the Hornets were going to get for Chris Paul and Dell Demps should be lauded for putting this masterpiece of rosterbation together.
[Note by Mike Lisboa, 12/09/11 8:34 AM PST ] I somehow forgot to include Kevin Martin above, so,the Hornets also bagged a 20 point a night guy. A starting line-up for a superstar with potentially bad knees? Can you imagine if the Suns had gotten anywhere near this value for Amare Stoudemire?
What the NBA, what the owners, what David Stern just did is completely unconscionable. I didn't think I could somehow become more disgusted with NBA owners and league officials than I was during the lockout, but somehow the bar keeps getting lowered.
Put yourself in Dell Demps' shoes. You're an NBA GM. Your team's in turnaround. Your star player is going to leave as a free agent at season's end, come hell or high water. It is in your team's best interest to land the best possible package for that player before you lose him for nothing. So what does Demps do? He only lands a massively-skilled front line in Lamar Odom and Luis Scola, a promising if inconsistent guard in Goran Dragic, and a first round pick. Those, friends, are legitimate building blocks. Sure, the Lakers get a serious upgrade at point guard, but they also get absolutely peeled in the frontcourt.
At this point, if I'm Dell Demps, I not only make this deal, but then I give a Tiger Woods fist pump, pour myself a glass of scotch, and spend the rest of the night patting myself on the back. But then the NBA for whatever impossible-to-defend reason -- oh wait, "basketball reasons" -- steps in and murders my beautiful baby deal. Instead of engaging in some well-deserved self-congratulation, I'm now giving the Tiger Woods dead-eyed-what-just-happened-to-my-life stare, guzzling my bottle of scotch, and spending the rest of the night trying to choke myself with one hand. What should have been a feather in my cap is now bird turd in my hair.
Re-imagine that this is Steve Nash asking for the trade. I'm not sure many that frequent this site could blame him for wanting out of a team in disarray in the last year of his contract. And imagine that somehow, that's the package Lon Babby gets back . Instead of being stuck with the nebulous promise of cap space, your team now has not one, but two legit big men and a first round draft pick (and, you know, The Dragon). Wouldn't you be pissed the league denied the trade for "basketball reasons?"
David Stern and the NBA denying the Chris Paul trade was not about "competitive balance," anymore than the lockout was. This was about control. This was about owners saying, "Our collusion is more important than player collusion." This was about castrating a superstar under contract. This was the NBA telling superstars and apparently, one its most venerable owners, Jerry Buss, "This is our league, not yours."
If I'm Jerry Buss, I lawyer up. If I'm the players, I lawyer up. Hell, if I'm the players, I consider not just lawyering up, but striking as well. This was a groundless decision by a monopoly acting in a non-competitive and decidedly spiteful fashion.
I shouldn't be this worked up about this. The Lakers got screwed? Great. A prima donna player doesn't get his way? Too bad. But something about the way this deal didn't go down is profoundly rotten. It speaks to a shortsightedness and pettiness among David Stern and his owners that even the bitterness of the lockout couldn't reveal. It makes the very idea of supporting a now nakedly corrupt organization revolting.
You know what I'd like right now? Just one good "basketball reason" to tune in this season. Because the Chris Paul trade isn't the only thing the NBA has killed this year.