NEW YORK — I was standing outside the St. Regis Hotel enjoying some tobacco last night when David Stern came walking by, we shook hands and I offered him a cigarette. He said he’d prefer a big, fat cigar, and then he kept walking. I found it curious that he was not being escorted by his usual security guy (who loves this site).
Alone walked Stern down East 55th Street, about an hour before word got out that he had vetoed the three-team trade Chris Paul trade.
It was dark by then, so it wasn’t like Stern was walking off into the sunset. But it sort of had that feel to it.
Henry Abbott of ESPN TrueHoop has written a piece suggesting that Stern hinted at retirement in his news conference to announce the owners had approved the deal in a 25-5 vote, and the events of the past 14 hour make you wonder whether Abbott isn’t onto something.
In the meantime, the opinions are flooding the Internet, and there aren’t a whole lot of people siding with Easy Dave.
Tom Ziller of SBNation: “NBA commissioner David Stern’s decision to veto the L.A. Lakers’ blockbuster trade for Chris Paul is not that surprising once you get past the ugly precedent it sets, the massive P.R. wound for the league it represents and the incredible unfairness embedded within. … Stern almost assuredly has the wide support of his owners, who have proven over the past six months to be solipsistic little monsters, with internal fights over revenue sharing and transaction restrictions on teams with the highest payrolls causing multiple delays in the lockout talks. The cabal of small-market owners (once reportedly led by Michael Jordan and Paul Allen, with renewed villain Dan Gilbert assumed to be enjoined) pushed and prodded Stern to be more Draconian, to turn the screws when the players didn’t cave as the season began to crumble. Five of these jokers voted against the lockout deal, one which saved owners some $3 billion in future salary and created a heavily graduated luxury tax system. … The hilarious thing is that the trade doesn’t mean jack Schintzius to Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers. What, are the Cavs now in the mix for CP3 via trade or free agency? Please. Are the Cavs on the cusp of competing against the Lakers for an NBA championship? Not unless that dude has been working on a time machine and a way to put LeBron James under hypnosis. This deal doesn’t mean a damn thing to Gilbert, except that in the long run it probably boosts the Lakers’ luxury tax bill, of which Gilbert would take a cut. So why is Gilbert acting as if his opinion matters? Why does his opinion matter? Why should any of the 29 owners have any role in the operations of the Hornets? Buying a 1/29th share of a business, last I checked, doesn’t give you a whole lot of sway in board meetings. I don’t know a lot of folks who hold 3.4 percent of a company’s stock and legitimately expect a voice at the table. Last November when Stern decided to bail out Hornets’ owner George Shinn, the owners voted to buy the franchise and give Stern authority to run it. And when Stern took that authority, he made perfectly clear who would be calling the shots: not him.
Bill Simmons of Grantland.com: One of the strangest things about loving sports: Those random moments when you’re sitting in your house, your office, your classroom, wherever … and suddenly you get blown away by a legitimate bombshell. This was crazy. This was insane. This made no sense. By blocking the trade, David Stern was willingly creating his own Watergate and validating every critic who ever claimed, “That guy stayed too long.” Tim Donaghy was just one guy acting alone — we think — and tampering with dozens of games before they caught him. Blocking the Paul trade? This was different. This was Big Brother stuff. This was one of the biggest conflicts of interest in sports history. This was a league intentionally jeopardizing its own credibility. This was a scandal popping out of thin air, self-created, almost like a man-made lake or something. … Those first few minutes after word spread (not only that the trade was canceled, but that Paul would probably remain in New Orleans for the entire season), as everyone came to the same sobering conclusion. The old man finally lost his mind. Sure, he was pushed there by a cluster of bitter owners, but the old Stern never would have rolled over like that. Twenty years ago, 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago, Stern would have brushed them off in his endearingly condescending way, quelled the fire, called in a favor or two, acted like the politician he always secretly was. Not this time. The old man doesn’t have the same sway. We just witnessed it during that lockout. Few people understood how much time and effort he spent pushing his holdout owners toward that final compromise. He barely got there.
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: On the very day that the NBA was supposed to be back, embracing us with this charade of a 66-game season after five months of a pointless lockout, it stepped into the worst kind of purgatory. What happened Thursday, the incomprehensible events you’d expect from a second-rate, minor league sport, did far more damage than the lockout ever did — or ever could. After years of fans, both casual and hard-core, not to mention the disciplined executives and coaches working in the business, believing that something always wasn’t quite right — something was rotten in Denmark — the NBA finally proved it. … Pathetic,” is how one team executive described the mayhem that played out Thursday, before commissioner David Stern somehow found a way to make it worse by canceling a trade that would’ve sent superstar Chris Paul from the Hornets to the Lakers for what a league spokesman laughably called “basketball reasons.” This whole thing Thursday reeked to high heaven, and the NBA is going to pay a very dear price for it. … It was all fine and dandy in the fantasy world of the NBA until Stern on Thursday decided to undercut and permanently impugn the power of the general manager who’s supposed to be in charge of basketball decisions for the team that the league shouldn’t own, but does. Until Stern passive-aggressively took out his frustration, and that of his owners, over a collective bargaining agreement that he couldn’t negotiate punitively enough. Was it for “basketball reasons” that Stern did this, making a full-on mockery of the men who run his teams in a way that sullied the NBA’s public image and credibility far more than any superstars flocking toward each other could? ”We are ruled by a dictator,” said one of several angered and flummoxed team executives I spoke with Thursday night in the aftermath of this bush-league decision, one that threatens to blow the lid off the power struggle that has brewing between owners and players for months in the bargaining room — and, in truth, for decades otherwise. ”What if this had been done before the players voted on the deal?” a management source said. “They wouldn’t have voted for it.” … Immediately on the heels of a lockout that obviously accomplished nothing, the NBA managed to step into an even bigger pile of its own waste before the first whistle had even been blown or basketball dribbled. This supposedly healed economic model resulted in a trade that was disallowed because the sad-sack, charity case team supposedly couldn’t be trusted to make its own decisions. And after this, how will that team possibly be able to make it any more? After making a credible, beneficial trade under the circumstances, how is Demps going to find a way to save his franchise with a better one? But something bigger than that happened Thursday. The NBA became the place where conspiracy theories and frozen envelopes and suspicious whistles are no longer the stuff of overactive imaginations or the objects of cold stares from company men. It all came home to roost with this decision from Stern Thursday night, a fine way to take something that was already going to be a struggle — a lockout-shortened season filled with bad blood and worse basketball — and turn it into something far worse. The punchline of a sorry excuse for a joke, under a circus tent growing more inflated by the minute.
Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld: “Owners nix deals all the time, so realistically this is not a huge deal, but because this decision came from the league office and not Jac Sperling who is supposed to be running the day to day for the League and not from Hornets’ president Hugh Weber who was assured autonomy for all things basketball or from Hornets’ General Manager Dell Demps who had been working this situation for the better part of two weeks. Because the veto didn’t come from any of those three people… the decision stinks in the worst kind of way. When the NBA made the decision to buy out former Hornets owner George Shinn last year, the league assured the basketball side of things that they would be hands off and allow Demps and Weber to run things as they always have. And for all of last year they did exactly that, focusing solely on improving the Hornets business and sales operations. As the Chris Paul rumors played out in the press last week, inquiring teams reportedly checked with the league to insure that Demps indeed had the authority to trade Paul and their efforts were not being wasted. All were assured he did.
John Hollinger of ESPN.com, via Twitter: Breaking: The NBA is changing its name to Venezuela.
Mark Heisler of SheridanHoops.com, via Twitter: I’M NOT A LAWYER AND STERN IS but Hornets have their own duly appointed (by him) leader, who made deal. To me it spells L-E-G-A-L P-E-R-I-L.