The deal was done, agreed to in principle by all three teams.
The Lakers would get Chris Paul, in exchange for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. The Rockets would end up with Gasol, and the Hornets would end up with a solid package of Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Goran Dragic, with the cap room available to potentially go after Nene, the best free agent center on the market.
Considering Paul’s impending free agent status at the end of this season, and the fact that he told New Orleans he would not be back and wanted to be traded, this actually seemed like a good trade for the Hornets, one that would allow them to rebuild on the fly and even compete for a playoff spot this season.
But in the rare situation where the league happens to have ownership control of a team, well, that’s where things get sticky.
The owners pushed David Stern to kill the deal that would send Paul to the Lakers, and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that’s exactly what has happened.
Some owners pushed Stern to demand that trade be nullified, and the Hornets be made to keep Paul on the roster for the foreseeable future, sources said. A chorus of owners were irate with the belief that the five-month lockout had happened largely to stop big-market teams from leveraging small-market teams for star players pending free agency.
All the players involved in the trade have been told to report to their teams for the start of training camp on Friday.
Plenty to digest here, but first and foremost is the assertion that the lockout happened to stop this kind of thing from happening — which is complete nonsense.
The reason for the lockout on the owners’ side was based solely on money, pure and simple. The owners demanded givebacks from the last collective bargaining agreement to the tune of three billion dollars, and they got it. The players knew that they had to cave on the financial side, but if that was the case, there was no way they were going to give up the systems in place that allowed them to play wherever and with whomever they wanted once they became free agents.
If the owners were truly that concerned about competitive balance issues, they could have made that the priority, and for some financial concessions, the players likely would have gone along with those changes for the overall good of the league. Credit the players for being smart enough not to cave to both, and scoff at the owners who balk at a free agent like Paul telling his current team he wants out, and that he will only sign a new deal with a team of his choosing.
Now, back to the matter at hand. I said before all of this nonsense began that the Hornets would not trade Paul as long as the league owned the team. The conflict of interest is evident, and I’m not mad at the league for cancelling Paul’s trade to the Lakers at the last minute.
But it never should have gotten this far.
It’s understandable that the league wouldn’t want the PR nightmare of trying to justify sending the game’s best point guard to the league’s glamor franchise in the nation’s second largest television market, even if the deal wasn’t great for the Lakers unless it was the first of two that would have also landed them Dwight Howard. But now that the league has intervened and blocked/vetoed/prevented the trade from going down, the NBA has made its bed, and now must lie in it.
After canceling the deal to send Paul to the Lakers, the Hornets should not be allowed to trade him — at all — until a new ownership group is in place.
This is really the only solution to maintain even the appearance of fairness throughout the league. If the NBA is going to step in and disallow this trade — which, by all accounts, was a bad one for L.A. and a fine one for the Hornets, given the circumstances — then the league can’t possibly allow the Hornets to send Paul anywhere else.
If the literally billions of dollars that swung back to the owners in the new collective bargaining agreement aren’t enough to entice someone to invest in an NBA franchise, then the league should indeed question what it was all for. It certainly wasn’t about ensuring competitive balance, and after this most recent debacle where the league is blocking a trade that seems to be fair for all teams involved, there’s no way that they should be able to trade Paul at all until an independent ownership group is in place.