The Suns considered Hill their top free agency priority and showed it in spending on Hill, who is the second oldest player in the league at 39 (by a day to Kurt Thomas). Hill has been a bargain for the Suns, making $10.1 million over the past four years as a productive starter one of the top defenders in the league.
His return was essential to the Suns' pursuit of defensive improvement and the happiness of Steve Nash in the last year of his contract. The Suns also want Hill's leadership influence on the rest of the team and it is believed he could have a long-term role with the organization beyond his retirement as a player.
But while national writers and tweeters everywhere are exploding with righteous indignation, I can't help but laugh.
Given the timing and parameters and certain repercussions, how could anyone expect a different outcome?
David Stern couldn't stomach watching competitive imbalance continue to play out ON THE VERY SAME DAY a brand, spanking new CBA was approved. A CBA that was supposed to help the small market teams stay relevant and the overpaying, monopolistic teams to stop acquiring replacement superstars whenever their incumbents started fading.
I mean, come on Chris Paul. You had to pick the ONE team that was symbolic of the competitive imbalance argument, the ONE team that throughout NBA history had seamlessly transitioned from one set of superstars to another (winning 5 championships in the last 11 years alone!), the ONE team that paid gobs of luxury taxes year over year and yet STILL found ways to acquire new superstars at the drop of a hat.
Talk about shoving it in the owners' faces.
Can you imagine David Stern's shock? Imagine the juxtaposition of winning the negotiation game by 40 points, only to watch Chris Paul and Dwight Howard run down the court on the opening tip of the very next game to slam the ball into the hoop and strut their stuff in front of a slack-jawed bench of egotistical NBA owners?
And on the very day the new CBA was being approved, Stern was still the butt of endless jokes. As the Chris Paul trade was being twitter-leaked minute by minute, a parade of deriding comments spewed out - all variations of the same theme: "so much for competitive balance!"
Chris Paul, one of the best players on the planet and still only 26 years old, going to the LAKERS?!?!? To pair up with Kobe Bryant and, certainly within hours, Dwight Howard!?!?!? Three of the top 5 players in the entire game on the same team? And with plenty of trade exceptions to fill out the roster. So much for competitive balance. Chalk up that trio for most of the Finals appearances and half the championships during this 6-10 year CBA.
And let's not forget why the 7-month lockout happened in the first place - LeBron James. You've still got Wade/LeBron/Bosh in Miami. If you put Paul/Kobe/Howard on one team and Wade/LeBron/Bosh on another, why should the other 28 teams even suit up?
Let's make this apocalyptic trade scenario EVEN WORSE for the NBA.
Hey David, not only is this going to happen on the same day your CBA is ratified.
Not only is 90% of your league in the crapper because the same 2 teams will reach the Finals every year.
Not only will all the players and media be laughing at you for the next 6-10 years.
Not only will the value of your league-owned franchise dwindle to nothing without a ticket-selling star on the team.
But hey, come on over here. Yeah, stand over that toilet. We're going to make YOU flush your own CBA down the toilet! Ha HA!
YOU AND YOUR FELLOW OWNERS get to start the dominoes falling by approving the initial trade of Paul to LA from your own league-owned franchise. Once that trade is approved and complete, the apocalypse starts and nothing would stop it.
Talk about a perfect storm. In retrospect, there was no way this trade could happen as constructed. They gave the egomaniacs no choice but to veto the deal.
Maybe tomorrow. Or next week. Or if the receiving team is someone other than the Lakers.
In the meantime, I can't help but laugh at the audacity and ludicrity of the predicament the players/agents/front offices put the owners into on the very day their sparkling new "competitive balance" CBA was being approved.
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.