David Stern thinks you can get off his back now for the Chris Paul trade

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The NBA held a conference call Wednesday night to discuss the trade of Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers for Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman, and a first-round pick. The call was as much for the league to try and spin the damage control caused by the league’s rejection of the initial Lakers-Rockets-Hornets trade as it was to introduce why this trade went through. The commissioner bantered with reporters wondering how this all went down and why.

Instead of running you through some dry narrative, let’s play a game called “What He Said/What He Meant” in which I take quotes from the most powerful man in the NBA and interpret them. Shall we?

What he said: “I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job.”

What he meant: “It shouldn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that two guys over 30 and a mid-20’s pick doesn’t help a team rebuild, but apparently it does. Took me about fifteen seconds.”

What he said: “You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasn’t a lot of fun, but I don’t get paid to have fun.”

What he meant: “I get paid to make other people not have fun. Specifically Dell Demps, Mitch Kupchak and Daryl Morey, apparently. Also, I did think this was right. If you don’t believe me, check your web traffic tomorrow.”

What he said: “Our sole focus was and will remain, until we sell this team, hopefully which will be in first half of 2012, how best to maintain the Hornets, make them as attractive and a competitive as we can and ensure we have a buyer who can keep them in New Orleans.”

What he meant: “Have you seen this draft class? Do you realize how much we’re going to drive this price up when they get two top-ten picks? We’ve already started printing unibrow signs for Anthony Davis. I have to keep them in New Orleans. The lockout, blocking the trade, that’s two strikes. I’m down to my last pitch, here.”

What he said: “I would recommend only to the most hearty with the thickest of skins that they do this.”

What he meant: “Don’t get it twisted, no one is iller than the commish. Tell Prokhorov I said ‘hi.'”

 

The commissioner is never going to get this off his resume, never going to erase what some consider a black stain on his legacy. But here’s the end result of Stern’s decisions. The Clippers are better, and a premier team in the league. The Hornets have a better shot at rebuilding and starting over. Both sides won.

The Lakers lost, but that’s another story.

Tom Thibodeau on Timberwolves not getting first-rounder in Jimmy Butler trade: ‘Getting good players was a priority’

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The Heat offered Josh Richardson and a first-round pick. The Rockets offered four first-round picks or Eric Gordon, Nene and two first-round picks. The Pelicans reportedly offered Nikola Mirotic and an unprotected first-round pick.

But the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler to the 76ers for Robert Covington and Dario Saric in a deal that included no first-round picks and Minnesota getting only one second-rounder.

Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau:

We wanted quality players. I think that that was important for us.

When you look at, to get two starters off a team that won 52 games, and they’re both young, and they’re going to get better, and they’re both very good defensively. They both shoot the 3, so we think they fit well with the guys that we do have.

And so once we once got to that point where felt we were getting multiple rotational players, then we felt it would be time to execute the deal.

It was what was best for the organization. Obviously, getting good players was a priority. But the pick part is important, and we felt we got a good pick from Philly.

It was what does it mean for the team? If you get two rotational players, that’s good. And then if you can get a pick, that allows you to do more things. And so I think that’s all part of it. You always try to think about what the possibilities could be.

Thibodeau might have taken the best offer for the the Timberwolves by the time he actually accepted a deal. Miami pulled the Richardson offer after his strong start to the season. Getting four first-rounders from Houston required taking Brandon Knight‘s negative-value contract, and it’s unclear exactly how the picks were protected. New Orleans has the best record of those three teams, so an unprotected pick carries less value.

But it’s also impossible to overlook Thibodeau’s present-minded attitude. That’s how he already approached everything. Now, he appears to be coaching for his job this season. Nobody ever expected him to prioritize long-term assets.

Covington and Saric are good players, but Minnesota was also 4-9 at the time of the trade. Are Covington and Saric good enough to lift the Timberwolves out of this hole and into the playoffs? It’s a tough ask. In 2020-21, Saric will be up for a big raise, and the Timberwolves already have a lot of money committed. They might have to downgrade the rest of the roster to keep Saric and avoid the luxury tax. This is a narrow window for Minnesota to get value from this trade.

That said, blame Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor for creating this situation. By allowing Thibodeau to remain in charge without much job security, Taylor is practically demanding Thibodeau emphasize the present. If Taylor wanted draft picks, he should have fired Thibodeau earlier.

Caris LeVert suffers injury so horrific, it brings teammates to tears and opponents to prayer (video)

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Caris LeVert has been one of the Nets’ biggest bright spots. The hard-working 24-year-old was a Most Improved Player candidate, and he seems well-liked throughout the organization. He’s even already hit a couple gamewinners this season.

But LeVert’s breakout campaign hit a devastating snag tonight, as he injured his leg.

The reactions of both his Brooklyn teammates and the Timberwolves say everything. This is a tough one.

Markelle Fultz takes ugly pump-fake free throw

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A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?

Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.

Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.

But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.

LeBron James: ‘I almost cracked’ with Lakers’ slow start

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LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.

How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

‪“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”‬

LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.

If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.

So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.

Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.