By: Jordan Ramirez
In one of the most historically befuddling days in the history of sports, the NBA lost whatever (if any) good graces fell their way from the resolution of the lockout with its colossal mishandling of superstar Chris Paul. Trade rumors surrounding Chris Paul intensified last week when Paul made it clear he wanted no part of NBA-owned franchise. Rather, Paul sought an opportunity to play in a prime NBA market with a chance to join forces with fellow NBA superstars a la Miami and New York. Golden State, Houston, Atlanta and the Clippers were the first reported suitors for Paul; not exactly the ideal situation the four-time All-Star was hoping for. Days passed, reports were released, sources exposed, and the consensus was that the Warriors and Clippers were leading the Paul sweepstakes. Soon enough, the Warriors balked at the asking price of Stephen Curry while the Clippers did the same with Eric Gordon.
The Warriors and Clippers, two franchises synonymous with NBA anonymity, were striving for a chance to land one of the league’s elite talents yet unwilling to part with their own to acquire said talent. With Paul unwilling to sign an extension with either team the sweepstakes hit a snag. The Knicks didn’t acquire the assets necessary to complete a deal for Paul. The Celtics tried to squeal their way into the discussions by dangling Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green (Hah) but to no avail. What team was left? What team possessed the assets necessary to acquire a player of Paul’s caliber while still satisfying Paul’s demand for a big market contender? The Los Angeles Lakers of course.
Rumblings ran rampant the past few days stating the Lakers were indeed in on CP3 and were very serious in their efforts toward acquiring the superstar. “NOOOOOO!!!!!!!” was the common reaction from NBA fans around the internets. Can this worst case scenario actually happen? Can the NBA’s most prominent franchise land another star? Then the bombshell hit:
Adrian Wojnarowski quickly followed this report with another stating that it was actually Pau Gasol and not Andrew Bynum included in the deal. Houston would also be part of the deal, sending Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to the Hornets (along with Odom, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first round pick) with Gasol heading to Texas. A win-win-win for all teams involved, this deal, unlike others involving the league’s superstars, actually benefited all parties. This wasn’t a Kwame Brown scenario; there was no “hosing” here. The only backlash came from bitter fans disappointed in their own team’s failures while having to watch to watch the Lakers continued efforts towards improving their already superfluous on-court product.
In what can only be classified as one of the biggest shams in NBA history, the NBA and its owners decided to veto the proposed three team deal. Instead of allowing the trade to go through the owners voted to overrule New Orleans GM Dell Demps and instead force him to keep Chris Paul on the roster in the interim. Did I mention the NBA owns the Hornets? Yes, the NBA actually runs its own franchise! How cool is that!
The extreme and undeniable collusion David Stern committed on Thursday night overshadows any positive vibes the NBA gained through its historically successful 10’-11 campaign and tolerable resolution to its 149 day lockout. Stern was essentially duped into believing that the allowance of big market teams to continue to succeed while acquiring additional elite talent was unfair and not in the best interest of the league. Huh? Not long after the owners shafted the players union in CBA negotiations, owners of small market teams now cry for help and say “Hey! My franchise will never have the chance to do this deal! Neither should yours!” The owners made additional money from the players while at the same time acquiring the right to shelve these very players from going where they want to go.
The purpose of the lockout was to re-create a league that allows teams equal opportunities for achieving ultimate success, also known as competitive balance. The NBA is coming off one of its most successful seasons ever due to the lack of this competitive balance. What the NBA did on Thursday night completely goes against what made the league so successful in the first place: big market teams making big market moves to form big time contenders. The whole idea of achieving competitive balance was flawed from the beginning. The NBA is trying to achieve the impossible: preaching competitive balance for small market teams while at the same time promoting competitive imbalance in regards to big market ones. The NBA is the newly appointed 21st century mafia with David Stern playing the role of Al Capone.
The villainy surrounding The Big Three and sudden resurgence of the New York Knicks were two of the main reasons why the NBA was such a success last season. What do these two storylines have in common? Both allowed for those respected superstars to decide where they want to go and how they want to go there while at the same time departing small markets to enter larger ones. The NBA has achieved ultimate hypocrisy. They now leave Hornets GM Dell Demps in unimaginable flux while also screwing over Houston and Los Angeles. What team wants to trade for Paul knowing he is beyond angry and doesn’t want to play for you? How do the Lakers reconcile their relationships with Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom? How does Houston recoup after showing their fan base they’re willing to blow up the team? These are all valid questions with no immediate answers.
How the NBA recovers from this travesty is still unknown. What is known: Stern is king and his servants are here to stay.