Nov 28, 2011, 10:44 AM EST
Since the NBA last bounced a ball, one team has changed hands (Philadelphia) and another was sold only to have that deal fall apart (Atlanta).
All the while, a franchise that might have as great an impact as any in reshaping the league remains in the hands of the league (New Orleans).
While the NBA clearly had greater priorities these past five months, it is time to get the Hornets back into the ownership game. The longer the league continues to operate the Hornets, the longer the stench of the lockout will remain.
Here’s why: The terms of the soon-to-be-ratified collective-bargaining agreement still allow impending free agents to be dealt and signed to extensions. The Carmelo Rule did not make the final CBA cut.
So while he is saying all the right things right now, we’re at the starting line when it comes to Chris Paul being in position to force the Hornets’ hands.
Already, in these mere hours since the resolution of the lockout, the New York tabloids have been all over the Paul-to-Knicks angle (one that has validity considering the cap space the Knicks can amass for the 2012 offseason, when Paul has an opt-out).
And that’s where it gets sticky.
How can an NBA that stressed parity, parity, parity (Adam Silver apparently now has it tattooed on his bicep), allow itself to be in a position where the two teams that helped destroy the notion of parity in 2010-11 could be negotiating with it for one of the prime prizes of 2012 free agency (along with Dwight Howard)?
The Hornets need to be sold off . . . yesterday.
Such a deal might yet be forthcoming, although it’s not as if it couldn’t have transpired during the lockout, as evidenced by the machinations with the 76ers and Hawks.
But even the mere notion of the league, as de facto owner of the Hornets, negotiating with the Knicks regarding Paul would be an affront to all the small-market teams who put their faith in David Stern and Silver.
For now, Paul said he is not thinking about a possible sign-and-extend package, that his priority is to get settled back in New Orleans. Through all that franchise has endured, he has been the good soldier, from the recovery work to his charitable efforts. The All-Star point guard is viewed as one of the league’s good guys.
But as the league witnessed last season with Carmelo, these will-he-or-won’t-he stories get old in a hurry. If nothing else, the Nuggets deserve credit for acting swiftly and decisively with Anthony.
Now the Magic (with Howard) and the Hornets (with Paul) will have to do the same in coming weeks.
The difference is the Magic only have to move in their own best interests. There is no secondary agent there.
But as long as the NBA continues to operate the Hornets, the Chris Paul saga will remain as much about what is in the best interest of the league as what is in the best interest of the Hornets going forward.
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