Chris Paul Lakers

Chris Paul, Lamar Odom unlikely to report when training camps open

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Training camps are set to open for all 30 teams on Friday, but don’t expect Chris Paul to report to the Hornets or Lamar Odom to report to the Lakers.

After the three-team deal that would have sent Paul to Los Angeles and Odom to New Orleans was killed by the league late Thursday night, reports surfaced that Paul and Odom would likely be sitting out the start of training camp while collecting their thoughts as things sorted themselves out.

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com reports that it would be “very surprising” if Paul reported to Hornets camp on Friday, and the Los Angeles Times talked to Odom, who seemed particularly shaken up by this evening’s turn of events.

“Maybe I’ll see you there tomorrow [at practice],” Odom said. “But I doubt it. You don’t want to go to no place you’re not wanted. I’ll try to give them what they want as much as possible.”

“Man, I’m just in total disbelief about all of this,” Odom continued. “They don’t want my services, for whatever reason. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do. I was proud to be a Laker, so I’ll try to help them in the process as much as possible.”

You can’t blame these guys for not wanting to put their heart and soul into a team that had already made the decision to send them out of town. But if the league’s rejection of the trade holds firm, and no other deals involving either of these players surface in the near future, that’s precisely the uncomfortable situation that Paul and Odom are going to be forced to deal with.

After killing Chris Paul deal to the Lakers, there’s no way the league can trade him anywhere else

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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.

Chris Paul deal does not improve the Lakers, unless a Dwight Howard deal is next

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If the three-team trade between the Lakers, Hornets, and Rockets is finalized as expected when the league opens for business on Friday morning, L.A. will have sent Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom out of town in exchange for Chris Paul  — and possibly another piece to make the salaries match, like Emeka Okafor. In doing so, L.A. gets the league’s best pure point guard, but gives away two of its three key frontcourt players responsible for two championships and three trips to the NBA Finals.

As exciting as it is to add a player like Paul, whose competitive fire is matched only by that of Kobe Bryant, it’s a big risk to blow up the core of a team as successful as L.A.’s has been, and to go in an entirely new direction for the first time in four seasons.

In short, if the Lakers are done dealing, they just got worse.

The thing is, in all likelihood, the Lakers aren’t finished at all. By pulling off the deal for Paul without giving up Andrew Bynum, there’s still a shot for L.A. to land Dwight Howard in a trade involving the Lakers’ young big.

But we’re not there just yet, so let’s take this one at face value. The Lakers’ size was a key component in getting them to those three straight Finals from 2008-2010, so sending two of those guys packing is no small decision.

Gasol is to this day tagged as being soft by the uninformed, but he’s among the most skilled all-around big men the league has to offer. He scores and rebounds at an All-Star level, and commands a double-team from most teams in the post, where he’s just as effective finding the open man when the help comes as he is scoring the basketball.

Odom famously doesn’t bring his best game every single night, but he’s as versatile a player that the league has, and would most certainly be in the starting lineup for all but a handful of teams. With the Lakers, he came off the bench. That’s an incredible asset to have playing with the second unit, and isn’t something that should be understated.

Now, there’s no question that the Lakers desperately needed an upgrade at the point guard position. Derek Fisher as a starter might have been passable in the semi-triangle offense, one that seemed to end more often than the team would have liked in isolations for Kobe Bryant. But with a new head coach in Mike Brown installing a new offensive system, Fisher was not going to have the playmaking ability to run a more traditional offense. In that regard, the Lakers couldn’t have dreamed of doing any better than landing Chris Paul.

Once you get past the point guard position, however, it becomes evident that the subtraction of Gasol and Odom presents more problems than the addition of Paul solves. Who would the Lakers start at power forward? (And center too, for that matter, considering Bynum’s suspension for the first five games of the season.) Where’s the size and versatility off the bench? Who will be there to protect the rim and rebound?

If the answer ends up being Dwight Howard, then the trade for Chris Paul absolutely makes sense, and the Lakers will be the favorites to win yet another NBA title this season. But if L.A. is unable to flip Bynum to Orlando in a deal for Howard, then their championship window just got a little bit smaller.