Hours after the New Orleans Hornets struck a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets on a three-team trade that would have seen perennial All-Star point guard Chris Paul throwing alley-hoops to Kobe Bryant, NBA commissioner David Stern informed the “League-Owned” Hornets that the trade will not happen.
The decision was made primarily due to the overwhelming displeasure of certain NBA owners. Particularly, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Yahoo Sports obtained an email that was sent to Stern from Gilbert expressing his displeasure in the deal. Gilbert felt that the deal would be a “travesty” and that “the 29 owners of the Hornets” should put the deal to a vote. In the letter, Gilbert also stated that “the Lakers would save approximately 20 million in salaries and 21 million dollars in luxury taxes…..”that 21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing”. He further wrote….”I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player). I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen. I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do. When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?”. It seems like Mr. Gilbert cares more about his revenue split instead of his fellow small market team in the New Orleans Hornets, who would have received a great deal in the trade.
Let’s look at the proposed trade and the league’s explanation on blocking it shall we?
Paul would have gone to Los Angeles, Pau Gasol would go to Houston and the Hornets would get Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Lamar Odom. Those are some pretty darn good players the Hornets could have gotten if you ask me. Not to mention that Odom is the reigning Sixth Man of the Year! The league’s explanation…..”The deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.” OKAY!!! So if the deal was never discussed and the league owns the Hornets, why did they allow the trade talks to go as far as an agreement in principle? What does “basketball reasons” really mean?
There is no way that this deal shouldn’t have gone through. Period! It’s not as if the Hornets organization was getting low-balled. Los Angeles was willing to give up their All-Star power forward and the Sixth man of the Year. There’s no guarantee that the Lakers would have even acquired the Dwight Howard from the Orlando Magic. In fact, giving up Lamar Odom would have lowered their chances of obtaining Howard.
On a day that the NBA officially ended a senseless lockout, David Stern gave the NBA another black eye in allowing certain league owners to manipulate things and use poor judgment. The owners signed off on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and the league has no place in dictating where a player should go. Trying to keep a great player in a small market just isn’t going to happen folks. New Orleans had a great opportunity to get better as a team and allow a great player that wasn’t going to resign in the first place to go where he felt best suits him. As a result, Paul not only threatens to sue the league but he’s made it clear that he will not report to training camp.
At the end of the day, Los Angeles will always be an elite team regardless, Chris Paul will not sign an extension with the Hornets and he will go to the team of his liking. If this rule by David Stern stands, the real loser in this is New Orleans, who might lose their star player with nothing in return.
By Keith Madyun