Reactions to the vetoed Chris Paul trade

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.

A sampling:

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.

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  1. p00ka says

    Crazy shit, eh. My initial take on the deal was that NO made out very well, and the Rockets had a HUGE brain fart. They gave up all that for a 31 year old Gasol? I’m guessing they had something else in the works, like using up cleared up cap space to get the other Gasol? I don’t know.

    I’m very interested in hearing what Stern/The League say when pushed to explain their decision, but I get the feeling it’s about playing their cards as best they think for getting a buyer for NO. Prospects haven’t been lining up. The players they got would have effectively chewed up all their cap space, made them a bottom seed playoff team (maybe), and a money loser with expected low revenues this year, yet taking them out of the lottery in next years stacked draft. I can’t see Stern going along with this block unless they have some reasonable explanation that we haven’t heard yet, but that thought could be out to lunch as well. Wait and see I guess.

    • ignarus says

      Unless I’m going to assume Stern’s just flexing his muscles, he’s got to actually think he won’t be able to get a decent buyer for the team without a centerpiece — if not Paul, somebody to build with.

      It’s not unlike the situation where the Hawks overpaid to keep Joe Johnson — they needed him to keep the sale price up (though they’re still trying to find a buyer).

  2. KnicksFan says

    SP —
    There’s no way to side with the owners form a moral standpoint. Each team operates individually and it isn’t a sport where the Lakers are supposed to say “Oh, we’re going to be too good and save a lot of money, let’s not do this” — Dan Gilbert cares less about the Lakers winning another championship than he does getting a % of that luxury tax money because his team is horrendous. The whole “big brother” involvement just seems like these teams can’t operate on their own terms (as long as they follow the CBA).

  3. LT says

    This is why this decision (and the NBA) is a joke: had Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom (and the Lkers) not been involved, and the Rockets gave the same players to the Hornets as well as one more guy in a two-tem deal, no one would have cared. The owners just care because it is the Lakers. This is beyond ridiculous.

  4. SP says

    To be honest, I side with the owners on this one. While I am a Bulls fan that would rather not see CP3 go to the Lakers, it seems too much for the Lakers to save $40 million and receive the best player in the deal. When $21 million of that is luxory tax that goes to the smaller market teams, I imagine it’s hard for other owners to stomach losing money directly while losing the likelihood of building a championship team. It seems that bringing in another team to basically give the Lakers an Arenas type contract should not be all that difficult. I think people are assuming CP3 will have to stay the season, but I imagine that would increase the exposure to legal liability since getting traded allows him more money than just leaving in free agency. I still think there is more than enough time for a deal to be made where the Lakers do not shed salary and get CP3.

    • LT says

      That is ridiculous. Other owners have a clear conflict of interest — they should not have any say in what is a “fair” trade for the Hornets. If the same deal had been done to another team, the owners would have been fine. The Lakers were able to make this deal because they have managed their team intelligently for years.

      PS I hate the Lakers. Also, I think it hurts them — their front line is toast and completely dependent on Andrew Bynum.

      • SP says

        The conflict of interest is implied when the 29 other owners own 1 of the teams. Obviously, there is no way that there can’t be a conflict of interest in this scenario, but you just have to manage it the best you can. One of the problems with having a team like the Hornets is that since they don’t have a single owner focused on profitability, the GM didn’t have to take into account lost luxory tax money from the Lakers. All of the other owners would have to take that into account because it directly affects their bottom line. However, this is all very easy to fix. Orlando would love a way to rid themselves of Arenas without paying his salary amnesty style. Bam, Lakers get CP3, take on Arenas’s deal, the owners keep their luxory tax money, everyone is happy.

        • WW says

          So let me get this straight…it’s the Lakers’ responsibility to remain way over the Luxury Tax so that they can give money to small market teams that are run poorly? The owners can’t talk about the NBA being a free-market BUSINESS and then expect it to be run like a socialist commune. This is hypocrisy at its worst and if the Lakers want to shed salary so that they don’t pay a much increased luxury tax penalty (to be enacted in the coming seasons) then that is their right to do so as a business. Teams like the Lakers, Knicks, Mavs, Celtics and Heat are the reason that basketball is so popular. They are the reason there is so much money to be made if you run your team well.

          • SP says

            It’s not the Lakers responsibility to remain over the luxory tax. But it’s also not the other owners responsibility to help the Lakers go under the luxory tax. Demps thought he had a deal and when he went to his 29 owners they rejected it. As business men, they have the right to reject this deal when they own a team even if it violates some arbitrary ethic of “fairness.” Regarding the “socialist commune” statement, the NBA owners had a lockout because the majority of teams were saying it was impossible to be profitable under the current system. They do not try to hide the fact that ownership in the NBA does have aspects that are “socialist.” It is not a laissez faire free market and they do not treat it as such. Just like the financial sector or airlines or the auto industry take government bailouts when the negative consequences of capitolism are too large, corporate America will engage in socialism when it is beneficial and profitable. To the extremely wealthy 29 owners of the NBA, they all realize it’s much more beneficial to have a system where every owner wins. If a player like CP3 is the loser, sucks to be him.

          • WW says

            Rejecting a deal on the basis of not wanting to allow the Lakers to be under the luxury tax is not a valid reason. The owners didn’t want the Lakers to save money that would otherwise go to them. That’s infringing upon the Lakers’ right to run its business the way they want. It’s a bad business move to keep Paul for one more season and then have him leave for nothing. This was not done in the best interests of the Hornets, it was done by people who want more money for themselves (and their teams)…that is a MASSIVE conflict of interest. Had this been a truly unfair deal, then I would have no problem with it being rejected. In terms of arbitrary “fairness”…it was the small market owners whining about how the league’s economic structure was “unfair” that led to the lockout. But now that they are all going to be profitable (which should be a reward for running your business well, not a guarantee for mere ownership), they don’t mind things being “unfair” for other teams and players. If the owners didn’t want players dictating where they want to go, then they shouldn’t have ratified this deal. They made their bed.

          • WW says

            Also…your last line…”If a player like CP3 is the loser, sucks to be him.” I could say the same thing of Dan Gilbert and any of the other owners that don’t run their teams well. The NBA is PLAYER driven league…not a team driven league like the NFL.

  5. Frank says

    Stern deserves to be bashed. This group of owners are so disfunctional and he just protected himself by nixing the deal. They ned to sell this team asap so that the new owners can move on and try to get some value for Paul…which of course they could have done with yesterday’s trade. What a joke.

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