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League finds way to make bad PR situation worse by killing trade

Dec 8, 2011, 10:52 PM EDT

David Stern Reuters

The only public relations move worse than the league allowing Chris Paul to be traded to the Lakers after a five-month lockout allegedly about “competitive balance” is to have David Stern come in with an iron fist and kill the deal because owners complained.

Well done NBA. Well done indeed.

David Stern and the league painted itself into a corner here by trying to be rational — if we learned one thing from the lockout it is that the NBA owners are not rational.

Stern let Hornets GM Dell Demps try to work out the best deal for his team. After talking to anyone and everyone that called, Demps came up with a three-team deal that would have netted the Hornets Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and a draft pick for Paul. That’s not a bad haul — those are guys that can make the team competitive now and be good trade chips going forward as the team will start to rebuild. This was the first move of many in the Hornets rebuilding.

But all some owners saw was Chris Paul going to the Lakers.

We just missed a couple months of the NBA season because Stern was telling us small market owners didn’t want to just keep sending their big stars to big markets like some kind of glorified farm system. “Competitive balance” was the owners’ mantra through this entire labor dispute.

Those owners saw the trade as a black eye and pressured the league to kill it.

What they did was make things worse. And made themselves look foolish in the process.

The league denies this is how things went down, with league spokesman Mike Bass saying the owners never discussed it as a group and the decision to kill the trade was made for “basketball reasons.”

Wrong. Demps made the trade he did for basketball reasons. He looked at about 100 trade options teams put before him and selected (and helped create) the one that he thought helped his team the most. He wanted to trade Paul for basketball reasons — he watched what happened to the Nuggets last year and didn’t want that to happen to his team.

But the league killed the deal anyway. Good luck finding a better one. Or any deal for that matter.

And while we’re at it — this Pau Gasol trade was a bad one, but Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown was OK? Really?

“Competitive balance” was always smokescreen, a myth that could not be obtained by any new Collective Bargaining Agreement. No system can save bad owners from themselves. Put simply, smart management wins in the NBA, and by smart management we mean smart drafting to start. You can win and be profitable in a small market, as San Antonio and Oklahoma City have and are proving, as the Memphis Grizzlies showed us last playoffs.

But the biggest stars will always gravitate toward the brightest lights. Los Angeles, New York and Miami have inherent advantages as a destination that Indianapolis cannot match. Small markets can overcome that, if they are managed well. The Hornets were not for years — thanks again Gorge Shinn! — and now Demps has to clean up the mess.

But the league wouldn’t let him do his job. They listened to whiny owners.

Sports Illustrated’s Richard Deitsch said the league looked like it was run by the Keystone Cops tonight. That sounds about right.

  1. rick1v - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    How can they possible trade CP3 to anyone now without the appearance the only reason this trade wasn’t acceptable was because CP3 was ending up in LA? The league knew the Hornets were fielding offers,and all of sudden the best deal they could find was no good? Whatta joke. Of course the small market owners killed this. To believe anything else defies all logic.

    Now what for CP3? He’s still not re-signing in Nola.

    • rick1v - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:17 PM

      didn’t see your earlier post Kurt, but was basically saying the same thing. whatta mess. why was he even being marketed in the 1st place? I guess if a small market team had made the deal, it probably would have been approved with no problems.

  2. cup0pizza - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:02 PM

    Stern is a liar, hypocrite and a tool. lol at the NBA. Garbage league.

    • florida727 - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:23 AM

      Boycott viewing the Christmas Day games… all of them. When the overnight TV rating come out and they’re the worst in league history, maybe they’ll learn that the fans, the ones paying for their lavish lifestyles, have finally had enough. I won’t watch any game on Christmas Day. I’m a lifelong Bulls fan. I’d love to watch Rose v. Kobe. Not going to. All of us need to step up and send a message to Stern and the owners.

      • scsportsfanatic - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:08 AM

        I too am a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls (since 1980); but I am also a fan of the NBA for over 30 years. I will NOT be watching one NBA game this year (2011-2012); let alone any on Christmas!

  3. yankeesjetsknicksrangers - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:04 PM

    Stern’s thoughts

    http://i.imgur.com/AuFVQ.jpg

  4. goforthanddie - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:05 PM

    I’m wondering if there isn’t a lawsuit in there somewhere? The trade was apparently valid; don’t you need a better reason to deny it than “Soandso got all butthurt”?

  5. bobulated - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    I don’t believe a spark of shame even exists in Stern anymore so I would have to chalk this one up to many owners lighting up his phone.

  6. cjpunk15 - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    I don’t think anybody can file a lawsuit because the new CBA hadn’t been ratified, it was just agreed in principle. Besides that how Stern can just make things up as he goes with the position he holds is a joke. All in all this trade after its reviewed as completely fair for all parties will be passed so, just a matter of WHEN not IF. Cause the NBA can’t take the chance of Paul leaving the Hornets without getting anything in return after the season, the league will soon realize that this is the best package the Hornets are going to get whether it’s before Dec. 25 or the middle of season.

  7. jharmon64 - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:21 PM

    Thank the lord, the Rockets were getting screwed.

    • fittytuckin - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:18 AM

      My thoughts exactly. What is Morey’s obsession with soft ass post players?

  8. charlutes - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:24 PM

    More and more every day David Stern resembles Emperor Palpatine.

  9. Justin - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:43 PM

    It is hard to say if Stern was right or wrong until next year’s free agency. When NY, Miami, Boston, and LA all don’t have cap room to make a good offer and Paul doesn’t go to them Stern and some owners may be very happy. Is that right? Maybe not.

    Also take Helin’s comments with a grain of salt as he is a Lakers fan. Of course he is going to be upset Stern killed a trade of a superstar to “his” team.

    • rick1v - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:48 PM

      but if the goal is to make the Hornets more valuable to a prospective buyer, how does CP3 as a free agent acheive that?

    • chuckj1234 - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:52 PM

      This just sounds like it is not legal. CBA or not.

      • florida727 - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:31 AM

        Excellent point “chuck”. I own a commodity. I choose to sell or exchange said commodity. As the “owner” of the commodity, no one has the right to tell me I can’t sell/exchange it if I, through my own efforts, find a suitable-to-me offer.

        Dr. Buss has plenty of money. I’d like to see him sue Stern personally and the league collectively for “unfair trade practices” (no pun intended, legal phrase), or collusion. Stern/league are preventing Buss from putting the best possible product out there for their fans to enjoy. You can argue this move by Stern is “financially detrimental” to Buss and the Lakers.

      • lardin - Dec 9, 2011 at 9:37 AM

        Florida, the thing is that the NBA owns the Hornets. Therefore they own one of the commodities in this scenario.

    • n2thaizzo - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:15 AM

      Boston will have cap room after this season for CP or DH.. Whether or not they get them is another story.

      This cancelled trade reflects very poorly on the owners. Makes them look like a bunch of whiny babies. CP WILL be in a major market eventually, why prolonge it?

    • david8726 - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:19 AM

      Screw everything about this post.

      It shouldn’t be about “what makes stern and some owners happy.” It should be about the well-being of the Hornets, the team that they own, and the integrity of the league.

      When Chris Paul walks after this year, the Hornets will be left with absolutely nothing to show for it, and they’ll have David Stern to thank for it. Furthermore, Stern is killing a perfectly legal, good basketball trade for both parties because he feels like it.

      Finally, your comments about Kurt are completely asinine. Just because someone has been a reported for a specific team in the past doesn’t mean they can’t give unbiased, good reporting in the future when they cover the league nationally.

    • Justin - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:49 AM

      Not sure why so many thumbs down. Oh well. And I admit I did not know about the salary cap situation of the Celtics. However, the league is putting a lot of importance on this Paul situation. If he does enter free agency he may ultimately be answering the question money or large market. I never have said any this is right. I’m sure some owners think it is and some are ticked. This situation is going to set the precedence for superstars in the future.

  10. sippindasyzurp - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    They shoulda just stayed locked out

  11. atlbrave32 - Dec 8, 2011 at 11:54 PM

    The NBA was in a catch 22 with this deal. I think the would have let him go to the Warriors or the Clipps, but when the Lakers became players in this the league had their hands tied. Lets not forget, the Lakers obtained Pau Gasol for a bag of peanuts and some chewing gum and became instant champions!! With Paul on the roster, the Lakers would still be more than dominate with Kobe, Paul and Bynum. The NBA tv ratings would have continued to soar and lets face it the NBA is at it’s best when either Miami, NY or LA are contending for championships! However, things are touchy right now in the league and this trade would have looked just as fishy as Pau Gasols trade to the Lakers from Memphis with Laker great Jerry West close to running the GM duties for the Grizz. So the NBA had to do what it had to do! The league just needs to be careful and keep the owners and the players both in check. Owner’s should not be dictating what other teams are able to do…..this could get out of control very quick!

  12. bostonianpride - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:15 AM

    Justin- next year in Free Agency the Celtics will have the most cap room of any team with both Garnett and Allen coming of the books. If the Knicks sign Tyson Chandler which everyone is indicating is nearly a done deal then the best they and the Heat can offer Paul is the veterans minimum. Im not sure what the Lakers cap space is next season but if CP3 and Howard both end up in LA its just more of the same all over again. It wouldn’t surprise me if Paul went to Orlando to play with Howard if LA can’t afford them both.

  13. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:24 AM

    I don’t understand how the League-Owned Hornets made a trade, especially one of this magnitude, without a full vote of all the league ownership. I mean…I don’t have a problem with the league not allowing the trade, but the manner in which they did it is just pain stupid.

    Next time a league takes over a team, make it a rule that any trades must go through a league-wide vote of owners or their proxy. Would help fix this type of PR disaster.

    • david8726 - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:39 AM

      You have no problem with the league screwing the team it owns? Really?

      The NBA, as the owners of the Hornets, should be looking out for the best interest of the Hornets. That’s obviously not happening here. Owners of other teams are hurting the franchise the league owners for their own selfish reasons.

      It’s bogus, and Hornets fans everywhere should be outraged. Stern is possibly setting New Orleans back years by putting them in a position where Chris Paul will walk and leave them with nothing. It’s Cleveland all over again.

      I’m livid about this and I’m not a fan of either the Hornets, Rockets, or Lakers. If I were a Hornets fan, I’d be grabbing my pitchfork and marching to the NBA offices.

    • goforthanddie - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:57 AM

      Dell Demps was appointed (by Herr Stern/the owners) to run the team. Now they’re telling him how to do his job.
      I understand that the league owns the team, but the only owners this trade concerns own the 3 teams involved. The trade followed proper guidelines, there is no real reason to deny it.
      Here’s a better idea: A league shouldn’t be owning a team to begin with. They could’ve sold the Hornets to multi-billionaire Larry Ellison long ago. Maybe he could’ve given the team stability, maybe Paul would want to stay.

  14. trbowman - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:37 AM

    “If we learned one thing from the lockout it is that the NBA owners are not rational”

    Wanting a league with competitve balance isn’t rational. On what planet?

    Right. I’m guessing you’re either a Laker, Heat or Celtics fan

    • hoytdadd64 - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:39 AM

      If Chris Paul leaves and N.O gets nothing in return or he’s traded to another small market and leaves after a year and that team is out draft picks and a star point gaurd…how is that creating parity in the league?

  15. trbowman - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    Dan Gilbert is a hero.

  16. beavertonsteve - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:48 AM

    ..and now Paul is refusing to report and exploring legal options.

    This looks awesome for the NBA’s image.

    • david8726 - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:00 AM

      Good for him.

      Fight the power, CP3.

    • trbowman - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:06 AM

  17. nosaintsfan79 - Dec 9, 2011 at 12:52 AM

    I’m a Hornets fan and season ticket holder and I hate the idea of CP3 playing for the Lakers but it was the best move for our team. I feel like the NBA really screwed the Hornets more than the Lakers that was a good deal. So now we have to watch CP3 play in NOLA when he doesn’t want to be here and know damn well that he is gone next summer to the Lakers or the Knicks anyway and the Hornets get nothing. Thanks Stern good looking out for the smaller markets. The NBA Is broken and it will never get fixed first the lock out and now this after this season I am done with the NBA. Good thing I have Saints season tickets too. Suck it Stern.

  18. hoytdadd64 - Dec 9, 2011 at 1:35 AM

    Here’s a link to send the league office an email….

    http://www.nba.com/email_us/contact_us.html

    …write Mr. Stern and let him know you’re not happy with him being a puppet savior for bad owners!!!!

  19. nbuckle - Dec 9, 2011 at 2:02 AM

    But Kurt, it almost sounds like you are angry over how unfair this is, which I know cannot be true. The owners are within their rights, thus, no one has a right to get upset at this decision.

    • 6thsense79 - Dec 9, 2011 at 6:56 AM

      The owners are within their rights to do what??? Screw over 3 other owners that made a legitimate deal and for what? The small market team with the most to lose if a deal doesn’t get done are the Hornets. Once CP3 leaves and signs with a big market team next year what exactly does that leave the Hornets with? No other players in return, no draft picks, nothing. This is extremely short sighted and all for the name of this mythical “competitive balance” bull. Or at least that’s what the owners have been force feeding you guys.

      • mogogo1 - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:06 AM

        I’m with you. This sets the precedent to kill absolutely any trade that a majority of owners dislike…which would be any trade that benefits a major contender. And if a trade agreed to by three teams can run afoul of Stern’s sense of “competitive balance” how long before he shoots down a free agent signing? “Sorry, Player X but we’re not going to let you sign a mid-level exemption and try to win a title because that wouldn’t be fair and some weaker team was willing to pay a bit more.”

  20. thekingdave - Dec 9, 2011 at 3:18 AM

    As a Rockets fan, this is awesome. What the hell was Morey thinking?

  21. denverdude7 - Dec 9, 2011 at 4:26 AM

    So much for the last shred of credibility the NBA had.

    Can we bring back the lockout?

    At least it was somewhat entertaining to watch the NBA players show up for billion dollar contract negotiations dressed in red hoodies.

  22. benekin - Dec 9, 2011 at 8:28 AM

    After all this nonsense and finding out how the NBA really is ran, I feel Tim Donaghy has alot of truth to what he claims happened in 2002.

  23. pastabelly - Dec 9, 2011 at 9:30 AM

    The lockout was a joke and it only shows that the league, owners, and players were only interested in money and not the fans or real competition in the league. The NFL and even NHL got it right. The NBA has it all wrong. MLB isn’t great. But it’s better than the NBA. What a joke!!!!

    • lardin - Dec 9, 2011 at 9:43 AM

      The idea of competitive balance in the NBA is an absolute joke. Since 1990, only 8 Franchises have won a Championship.

      Bulls 6
      Lakers 5
      Spurs 4
      Rockets 2
      Pistons 2
      Heat
      Celtics
      Mavericks

  24. psousa1 - Dec 9, 2011 at 10:03 AM

    NBA is a total joke anyway and only if I have insomnia will I watch an NBA game but I am glad Stern did this. The NBA is well on its way to the point where the superstar will say where he plays, who plays with him and pretty soon the Lebron James’ of the world will want to have a say in who plays on other teams too.

    It is a joke.

  25. mogogo1 - Dec 9, 2011 at 11:02 AM

    You cannot run a league by the seat of your pants, making stuff up as you go along. How did Stern think this would play out? Any deal that would send Paul to a contender is dead on arrival now. What happens when NOLA ends up having to settle and gets far less for Paul than this deal would have given them? Does Stern say “sorry”, give them some extra compensatory picks, what lunacy will he come up with to try and fix the disaster he created?

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