The Folly of Fools - Where the NBA Mishandles Everything
Sometimes, it’s just better to be honest. That’s a lesson someone should teach David Stern and his misguided crop of owners.
The NBA had made clear that Chris Paul was indeed available and that Dell Demps, General Manager of the Hornets, was the authority on where and to whom Chris would be dealt.
This was absolutely true until it absolutely wasn’t.
Demps spent weeks trying to flip Chris Paul for anything that would perhaps save the franchise from folding long enough until a new owner could be found and proper funding and a long term goal could be established.
Chris Paul is the NBA’s top point guard and the NBA has morphed into a point guard driven league. At just 26 years old, Paul’s value to any team doesn’t need to be stated. Dell’s goal was simple, get anything reasonable for Chris Paul or let him walk after 66 games, losing him, and possible the entire franchise, for nothing.
Dell went to work and scored himself Luis Scola, a guy good for nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds a game. Kevin Martin, a proven 24 point a game scorer that is as efficient as most centers in the NBA, a rare statistical gem with great contract value in a world of Vince Carters and Joe Johnsons. Demps also scored Lamar Odom, a 6th Man of the Year and one of the games most versatile players who had somewhat of a career year last year coming off the bench for the Lakers. Wait, we aren’t done yet. The Hornets also received Goran Dragic, a capable NBA point guard and the Knicks 1st round pick.
The Lakers got the point that they’ve needed for years. Chris Paul’s so good, he might finish his career as the second greatest pure point guard in NBA history. That’s not an exaggeration, either. The only question slithering around the legs of his career is how long his surgically repaired knee will last. It could go both ways even though if last season was any indication, he’s already lost a step. Still, a step behind his former self, Chris is still miles ahead of the rest of the NBA’s point guards. A two way player that can get you a score and a stop. He’s a once-in-a-generation type player so it shouldn’t be a shock to most that the Lakers gave up an All Star and a 6th Man of the Year as well as their dominating advantage in the paint to lock CP3 up.
Jerry Buss would have traded his favorite Laker Girls for a player like Chris. So many questions still loomed about the Lakers such as who would play Power Forward, who would start at Small Forward, what would they do when Bynum suffered his inevitable yearly knee implosion, and how in the hell was Mike Brown going to draw up a single play that worked. But those are all solvable riddles when you have all the right clues. Anytime you can trade for Chris Paul, you do it and ask the questions later.
The wildest part about all of this is that the Lakers some how saved $20 million in salary and another $21 million in luxury tax — more on this later — while getting themselves a 26 year old future Hall of Famer. And the cherry on top is that the Lakers kept their young center, Andrew Bynum, who many believe to be the perfect trade bait in an exchange for Orlando’s Dwight Howard. Incredible work by Mitch. This isn’t just a big market advantage, this is an intellectual advantage in the Lakers front office. They don’t let their assets lose value before they deal them and they never lose them for nearly nothing. Dan Gilbert and the rest of these idiot front offices should take notes!
The Houston Rockets also got themselves a Super Star. Just 8 months ago Pau Gasol, a highly skilled low post player, was an All-Star, All-NBA and even in the consideration for the 2011 MVP before it all fell apart for him in the playoffs. Not sure if it was the heavy minutes of the season, the exceedingly potent number of games he’s played over the last 4 seasons or if it’s his 32 year-old pasty body hitting the other side of his illustrious career, but Pau just didn’t have it in the end. Still, the idea of landing a legit Super Star to replace a lost Yao with was inciting. So much so that the Rockets GM, Daryl Morey, was willing to help send Chris Paul to the Lakers.
So everyone won this trade, right? Yes and No.
The Lakers took a double gamble here. Chris Paul wasn’t going to sign an extension. Not because he didn’t want to be a Laker. It’s because under the new CBA rules, it didn’t make financial sense. Chris could opt out at the end of the year and resign with the Lakers for more years and even more money. Or he could have bolted for a different city. But LA’s gamble didn’t just bet on their ability to keep a Super Star in the basketball capital of the world. Chris’s knee injury was also an unknown. Kobe’s and Bynum’s knees are already keeping the Lakers medical staff gainfully employed for the next decade, would Chris Paul need to join them for weekly knee drainings or would he have a smooth recovery.
The Rockets also gave up a ton of assets, including a lot of fire power, to land an aging and most likely disgruntled Pau Gasol. Was this the ‘big move’ the erroneously crowned ‘smartest GM in the NBA’ was waiting on? And if Scola, Martin, Dragic and a pick was nearly good enough to pry away Chris Paul, why didn’t Houston make that trade with the Hornets themselves? Sure, Chris Paul would be a 1-year rental, but 66 games of Paul and owning his Bird Rights are far greater than no Chris Paul at all. Morey keeps on proving that he’s the biggest idiot in the game.
And for the Hornets, on paper and even on the court, they won this trade. While the draft pick isn’t going to be better than the 20th pick, it’s still a strong haul for the Hornets, who might even compete for a playoff squad with that roster. Still, there’s a lot more to it than this and that’s where it all went wrong.
David Stern and his band of foolish governors weren’t happy with the trade.
Mark Cuban was irate that he couldn’t put together a good enough deal for Chris Paul, even after he announced that everyone except Dirk was open to trade in return for the point guard that Cuban’s been chasing for years.
Gilbert was furious that his team would miss out on the $21 million dollars the Lakers would have chipped in to non-luxury tax paying teams via revenue sharing. So much so that he made an ass out of himself once again and wrote another embarrassing letter, this time addressed to David Stern. Someone “please advise” this buffoon on how to run a franchise before he takes the NBA down with his sinking franchise.
Fresh off ratifying a new CBA that was laden with false promises of “Competitive Balance” and “Parity” the NBA owned New Orleans Hornets were about to gift the evil empire another franchise player, thus extending the Lakers reign on the NBA and small markets, completely tilting the future of the NBA in favor of the Lakers. Again. So much for parity and competitive balance, but the CBA wasn’t really about that and I’ll get to that soon.
Stern decided to make it so no one was happy. Not the fans, not the owners, not the players, not the agents. Not a single person. That was the result of his unprecedented nixing of the trade.
But what choice did Stern have?
This was about more than his whinny owners flooding their bank vaults with tears instead of tender. this wasn’t just about extending the Lakers dominance over the rest of the league. It wasn’t about a franchise and a fan base losing it’s best player or even about a player dictating when and where he wanted to go. It was about all of it.
But David Stern doesn’t want to admit to that. Not now, anyway.
Stern said that this wasn’t the owners choice, it was his and the leagues to veto the trade. But where does that leave the rest of the league? How willing will anyone be to trade going forward? Why risk pissing off players who will be forced to come back to your team?
What incentive do GMs have to work 80 hour weeks to make the numbers and the logic work just to have a power drunk GM or a logic impaired team owner throw a wrench in the entire thing?
Then there’s the business side of things. The Hornets probably wouldn’t survive a season without Chris Paul. That’s their only draw. He sells tickets and jerseys and tv viewers. If Paul is gone, who will care about the Hornets? And if no one cares, how would the already struggling franchise survive long enough for the NBA to find a new owner and recover the money infused by the rest of the league?
These are all questions that David had to think about and answer. Unfortunately he answered them with a lie. Not just one lie, a series of lies. He told us the owners had no say in this, but they did. He told us that he had to do this for “basketball reasons”, but it was clearly a monetary decision. He told us that the rest of the owners wouldn’t get involved in this and they did. We were told that the new CBA solved all of our problems and they didn’t. Perhaps they only created more problems. They certainly created more greed and more lies. Lies of competitive balance and player freedom.
And it all started out with one very important and very big lie; The NBA had made clear that Chris Paul was indeed available and that Dell Demps, General Manager of the Hornets, was the authority on where and to who Chris would be dealt.
This could have all been easily fixed. Nipped in the bud before it even had a chance to bloom into the poisonous plant that it’s become. The NBA should have made clear that Stern and his Board of Governors would have the final say in where Chris Paul would end up. They could have even gone further and stated before the fact that Chris Paul wasn’t up for trade until a new owner for the franchise was found. Instead Stern allowed weeks of negotiations to take place, hundreds of rumors to rise and fall, a deal to get finalized, articles to be written, and fan bases to be both devastated and celebrated before stepping in and shitting the bed.
In the wake of the NBA’s nuclear winter, a phrase coined by Stern himself, David decided to use the nuclear option by vetoing this trade, causing the NBA to spiral down and crash into a land unknown to anyone. Where do we go from here? What do we do next? Everything has changed.
Well, not everything. The NBA is still run by fools. Fools who ironically think of us as the same.