Rondo looking over his shoulder...

The NBA lockout that took effect earlier this summer is now over. The major items on the agenda for the owners revolved around the BRI split, the reduction in the length of contracts and the ability to control competitive balance. The players and owners were able to come to some sort of compromise on all of those issues save for the ability to control competitive balance in the NBA (although the owners blocking of the Chris Paul trade to the Lakers seems to indicate otherwise for now).

And with the lockout now over, there is an intriguing situation that has developed in both New Orleans and Boston that may probably force fans, general managers and players to choose sides.

As a result of The Decision and Carmelo Anthony’s exit from Denver to land in New York via trade and obtain a lucrative contract extension; owners sought to limit the movement of superstars. They discussed a potential franchise tag as well some other notions that would give them some built in advantages to retain their franchise players.

Essentially, what the owners were looking for was a better way of controlling the situation of their players. The idea that Dan Gilbert could get left at the alter on national television only to see his most prized possession get acquainted with new surroundings in a city known mostly as vacation destination must have scared some owners and general managers.

Thus, the new collection bargaining agreement will make the luxury tax stiffer starting with the 2013-14 season and also make it relatively more difficult for title contending teams to acquire players that were waived via the amnesty provision (in the event that a player is waived using the amnesty clause, teams that are beneath the salary cap will get “first dibs” on the this said player by bidding for his services).

These new wrinkles to the CBA will make it harder for talented teams to basically become stacked ones.

Nonetheless, players will still have the opportunity to test the market during free agency and pick the team they desire. As a result, if a superstar decides to take a pay cut to join an elite team; so be it.

Enter Chris Paul.

The former Wake Forest point guard will have the option of becoming a free agent at the conclusion of the 2011-12 season and will have a very long list of suitors vying for his services. The New Orleans Hornets (his current team) have come to the realization that their franchise player will most likely leave the team once his contract runs out in an effort to join a team of his choosing. In an effort to cut their losses, the Hornets have been exploring trade scenarios involving Paul to make sure that they are not left standing with nothing to show for once the Hornets’ season comes to an end.

Mind you, given that Paul is slated to become a free agent; most teams will only agree to trade for him if he commits to signing an extension once he joins their team. Truthfully, this is logical given that no team wants to willingly surrender some of their best assets only to find out after the fact that they are merely renting Paul for one season. And according to various reports, this is why the Golden State Warriors backed off of their willingness to discuss trade scenarios with the Hornets.

Enter the Boston Celtics.

It would seem that Danny Ainge decided that he would pursue Chris Paul regardless of the damage that he may cause to the collective psyche of his Celtics. With Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen scheduled to become free agents after the 2011-12 season, he has to try and win the title this season and then look to rebuild afterwards. There is no middle ground.

Given the circumstances, Ainge decided to make Rajon Rondo available as the starting point for any trade discussion involving the Hornets point guard. Even Celtics fans agree that Danny Ainge’s handling of the situation may in fact submarine Boston’s season should the campaign start without a swap being made.

Loyalty be damned. Professional sports are about two bottoms lines: wins and cash flow. If your team is successful, the money will surely pour in for the team, players, coaches, general managers and so forth.

But here is the thing: Rondo was given the keys to the Celtics franchise and was pretty much announced as the best player on the team last season and the engine that kept the Celtics’ car running. And now, all of a sudden he is finding out much like Dan Gilbert did, that there are other more attractive options.

Chris Paul for his part has somewhat of a say in where his next destination will be, whereas Rajon Rondo does not. For all the talk about competitive balance and restricting the movement of stars; no one discusses what the impacts are of trade rumors and also the fallout after players are moved from one team to another without their consent.

Granted, such is the nature of sports, players are well aware that they can be traded at any time and that they stop being loved as soon as someone better comes along. But if such is the case, how can we possibly begrudge players for wanting to do the exact same thing when they have the power to dictate their next location as well as their future teammates?

Whether Rondo gets traded or not, he will be told to suck it up and be a professional. But if Paul is to leave New Orleans, will the fans and front office do the same, or will CP3 become vilified for wanting to switch zip codes?

When LeBron and Carmelo switched teams, there was an outcry over the fact that these players held their teams hostage and then went on to situations that better suited their desires. And yet, here we are a few months later and Chris Paul seems to be doing the exact same thing.

The one catch though? The Boston Celtics are mimicking Paul with their handling of Rajon Rondo but no one outside of Celtics fans seem to care…

It was only a matter of time before the players caught up with the GMs and owners and it sure looks like that time is now.

Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at [email protected].

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