In the span of a few days, NBA commissioner David Stern twice vetoed what basketball fans figured would be the imminent trade of Chris Paul from the NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets. Both the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers (the former as part of a three-team deal) offered attractive multi-player packages, but Stern held firm. He demanded more for Paul, the All-Star point guard who has already announced he’ll leave at season’s end via free agency.
A PR disaster for the NBA
Veteran NBA writers like ESPN’s Chris Broussard and Marc Stein are calling Stern’s Chris Paul decision a “PR disaster.” So soon after battling through a long strike and resulting work stoppage that threatened to erase the 2011-12 season, the perception is that the NBA is on far from stable footing with the ticket-buying public.
Both the Lakers and Clippers claim that the asking price for “CP3” is absurdly high, considering that the Hornets will get next to nothing of value in return if Paul leaves via free agency. Basketball experts have agreed almost universally that the various trade packages would have benefited the Hornets overall, even though no single player had the value of Paul, a fearsomely quick, ultra-competitive, sweet-shooting distributor who has single-handedly made New Orleans a relevant post-season team. While trade talks with the Clippers are not officially closed, experts believe the writing is on the wall.
Paul, who responded to the trade vetoes via tweet with a stunned “Wow,” has reportedly sought counsel from the NBA player’s union. Insiders have mentioned the possibility of a lawsuit against the NBA.
The case of David Stern
In a recent “The Sports Guy” column for Grantland, Bill Simmons exclaimed that he felt like “crying” over David Stern “losing control of his own league.” From the dark months before the new collective bargaining agreement, when it appeared as though the NBA was headed for a “nuclear winter,” to the Chris Paul incident, where Stern has jerked too hard on the chain collar he’s placed upon the league, the NBA and its leadership are on perilous ground, Simmons suggests.
However, not all share Simmons’ opinion. Jared Wade of the Indiana Pacers’ blog Eight Points, Nine Seconds sees Stern’s high list of demands for Paul as an effort not to kill a dream match-up of Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant or Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and not to leave the cupboard bare for New Orleans once Paul leaves. Some of the more cynical critics have hinted that Stern may want to push the Hornets toward contraction, which is easier if fans don’t want to show up for games.
Wade sees Stern’s actions in a slightly different light. In order to sell the Hornets to a buyer who will ensure that professional basketball remains in New Orleans and is not moved elsewhere, such as to Las Vegas, Stern wants to keep the crown jewel that is Chris Paul in place. Perhaps the commissioner has plans to make Paul a free agent offer he can’t refuse.
UPDATE: Chris Paul is now a member of the Los Angeles Clippers, in a trade that changed little from the Clipper’s initial offer.
Chris Paul: ‘Poetry in motion’
Chris Paul player profile: http://espn.go.com/nba/player/_/id/2779/chris-paul
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