Sheridan: Stern ducks question on “veto” of CP3-to-Lakers deal

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ORLANDO — Shall we call him “Daffy,” “Donald,” or “Floyd Mayweather?”

Which “duck” moniker is most fitting?

Because NBA commissioner David Stern, asked a fair question tonight by yours truly at his annual All-Star news conference, did the finest bob-and-weave in NBA history while refusing to answer whether squashing the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers was the right thing to do.

Here is a transcript of the back-and-forth:

Q.  It’s been two months now since you vetoed the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade, and it’s given you two months of the benefit of hindsight and two months to look at the impact it’s had on several teams, the Clippers, the Lakers and especially the Hornets.  Given the benefit of that hindsight, was that veto, since you’ve never done one before, the right thing to do, and why?

STERN:  You’ve been around too long to phrase the question that way.  I didn’t veto anything.  We are acting on behalf of the owners, as the owners’ rep. New Orleans decided not to make the trade.

Q.  Well, whose decision was it to stop the trade?

STERN:  No, not to stop.  There’s no superstar that gets traded in this league unless the owner says, go ahead with it.  And in the case of New Orleans, the representative of the owner said, “That’s not a trade we’re going to make.”

Q.  But that representative was you?

STERN:  Correct.

Q.  So in effect then, you said the trade is not going to go through?

STERN:  I said that New Orleans would not make the trade that had been proposed to them.

Q.  And was that the right move to make?

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  You know, buy a ticket and see.  We’ll see how it works out.

Q.  I hate to press you on it, and I don’t want to break decorum ‑‑

STERN:  No, that’s okay, go ahead.

Q.  The Hornets didn’t make out as well in that trade as they would have made out in the earlier trade in terms of talent.  The best player they’ve got is injured and the draft pick is the same draft pick.

STERN:  I could go toe to toe.  It wouldn’t be breaking decorum, it would be taking a lot of people’s time.  You’re arguing whether we thought Marc Gasol would be an All‑Star.

Q.  I think we’ve always been in agreement on that.

STERN:  You knew he was going to be an All‑Star?

Q.  Absolutely, sir.  I cover a lot of international basketball.

COMMISSIONER DAVID STERN:  Okay, I have no further questions for the witness then.  Next question.

And that was how the exchange ended.

No clear answer for Lakers fans.

No clear answer for Hornets fans.

No suitable explanation for why a deal that would have brought the Hornets the foursome of Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Lamar Odom and the Knicks’ first-round pick was deemed inferior to what New Orleans settled for — Eric Gordon (who has played 2 games and will be a restricted free agent this summer), Chris Kaman (who is trade bait), Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round pick from the Timberwolves that’s basically of the same value as the Knicks’ pick the Hornets would have gotten in the original deal.

Tsk, tsk.

“Buy a ticket and see. We’ll see how it works out,” is not a suitable answer.

Frankly, I reckon I’ve covered between 60 to 80 Stern press conferences in my 17 years as an NBA writer, and I’ve never seen him duck a question like that.

I’ve seen him swat away bad questions, I’ve seen him belittle those who have posed ridiculous questions. I’ve seen him give an answer without actually answering the specific question that was posed, but I’ve never seen him duck like that.

I am no stranger to having a little back-and-forth with an attorney, and I don’t have a problem with it because it comes from my heritage (my grandfather Michael was a County Judge in Milwaukee from 1906 until 1956, and my grandfather, Emmet, practiced law in Milwaukee, too.) I also don’t have a problem being persistent when asking a reasonable question, a trait I learned watching my dad, Bob, run the news desk at the New York Times every night for 33 years (when I was a kid, he let me tag along).

So that explains my persistence, and I will do Mr. Afraid Of Pacquiao a favor and provide his side of the story in regards to his non-answer.

It was explained to me afterward that Stern took issue with my choice of the word “veto” because in the legal language of the league office, a trade is only “vetoed” when it is presented for approval and does not pass muster under salary cap guidelines.

So he ducked it on the basis of semantics.

But Stern understood the meaning behind the question, and his lack of a thoughtful response was regrettable. If that, ahem, veto did not happen, the Hornets would be in playoff contention, the Lakers would still be the darlings of Los Angeles, and the Clippers would still be a joke instead of a phenomenon.

None of that has happened because of what Stern did after Hornets general manager Dell Demps submitted for approval what would have been a great trade.

Stern turned it down for what were initially described as “basketball reasons.”

The following day, the NBA released this statement:

“Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner’s Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling.  All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets.  In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

In hindsight, was that a smart decision?

It is still a legitimate question, and it apparently remain unanswered for the foreseeable future.

And as I said before, Lakers fans, Hornets fans and NBA fans deserve better.

They deserved a straight answer.

 

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  1. “Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner’s Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling. All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

    HAHA, Chris got Stern to contradict himself again. Stern can rot in hell.

  2. Alex Howard says:

    Sheridan knew Gasol would become an All-Star? And he knew this from watching him over seas?

    There’s articles from just last year where Sheridan calls it “a stretch” to think Marc would ever be better than Pau, and where he says Marc is the same caliber big as Tyson Chandler. Nothing against Chandler, but he’s hardly a surefire all star.

  3. Alex Howard says:

    Stern did the right thing, the Lakers/Rox package would have left them mired mediocrity, that 10-12 range in the West but not bad enough for a great lotto pick. And if your going to blame Stern for not predicting Gordon’s injury then what do you say about the fact that Odom has been putrid, and both Scola/Kevin Martin are having subpar years.

    You dont rebuild by taking on veterans on the downside of their careers, I really dont see why you would expect anything less than a tank job this year.

    • LOL. Foolishness.

      The Hornets didn’t improve their chances for their future, but they definitely got worse, traded their superstar to a big market, and completely alienated their fans. Hornets attendance was actually going about and another playoff berth would’ve continued that, Paul or not.

      How many teams have really successfully built off of young players + draft picks? How many of those teams did it without a rare Howard, Durant, Rose type draft pick? How many of those players are in this draft or foreseeable future? NONE

      What did the Hornets get? Eric Gordon, not going to resign. Chris Kaman, not going to resign. Aminu is a bust. and the clippers pick is worse than the one that they would’ve gotten from the Rockets.

      Stern can rot in hell/

  4. Basketball fan says:

    If anybody watched the interview they would be laughing. To no surprise the transcript doesn’t really give an accurate description of press conference. Specifically, when Sheridan commented on Gasol and got laughed at by the whole room.

  5. Bottomline, chris Paul leaving the hornets means they don’t make the playoffs. Whether they get the talent from the lakers or the clippers it would not improve their ability to make the playoffs. At least now they will have cap space and more attractive assets to make deals. Look at odom on Dallas and see how he is struggling on a god team much less a bad one. Deal made is the better one.

  6. Basketball Fan from Southern California says:

    It would be sad if this veto trade negatively impacts the three teams for along time. The Hornets if they lose Eric Gordon will be worse off then with the inital trade. The Rockets lose out out pairing Pau Gasol with Nene and others. The Lakers lose out on having Chris Paul and being a top team in the West, the trade cos them Lamar Odom who wanted to leave after. Even Boston who had the Clippers first round pick this year will get a lower pick since Chris Paul helps the Clippers win games. The only winner in the veto trade was the Clippers and the angry owners. I want someone to ask Stern how did the Clippers get Chauncey Billups from the amnesty waiver the day before the Chris Paul trade. It seems suspicious, I think the NBA told the Clippers to make a higher bid to get Billups so they would include both Eric Gordon and the minnesota Timberwolves pick in the trade.

  7. lol this is laughable now. Why in the world should Stern answer to anyone? It has been said that the owner of the Magic cancelled a Dwight Howard trade to the Nets. Does anyone care to ask him the same questions, don’t these Net and Magic fans “deserve a straight answer”? I think Chris Sheridan is one of the best reporters out there, but I feel like the only reason anyone cares about this at all is because David Stern was acting like an owner. If any other owner did the same thing (and I’m pretty sure they have), no one would care.

    Now as for the trade or non-trade for that matter. I hear the term competitive used a lot. Look its great to be competitive, but you can’t tell me that this team would be higher than a 8th seed at best with the original trade, and their future would depend on 3 players with an average age of over 30. Right now they might be looking at a top 5 pick in what the analysts are calling one of the best drafts in years, and also a late lottery pick from Minnesota most likely. So the question is do you want to be competitive for now, or try to be build a great future from a great draft? That answer defines how you feel about the trade.

    • DeeBasketballGuy says:

      The problem is as you said, Stern was acting like an owner WHILE serving as league commissioner. He did exactly what he said he would NOT do when Sperling and Demps were brought onboard.

      And you’re wrong in one respect, no owner could kill a deal between other teams.

      • Yes he did, and that he can be blamed a bit for. However if he wasn’t acting like an owner, it would be Demps who was, which doesn’t seem right either.

        I never said an owner could kill a deal between other teams, but any owner in the league can kill a deal where his own players are involved, and I’m pretty sure it happens at least sometimes with no one really caring.

        • DeeBasketballGuy says:

          Well, in fact it should have been Demps making the personnel decisions and Sperling handling the financial side of basketball operations for the Hornets, That was the BIG problem here. These guys were put in place to avoid controversy, and the self-interests of other owners. Otherwise, you open yourself up to speculation of collusion.

          Every GM in the NBA was told that Dell Demps had FULL authority to make the deals NOT David Stern. Think for a second… how did the talks regarding the initial trade get that close to making a deal without the league knowing? Because they were not involved — they were never supposed to be involved in the personnel decisions for the Hornets! Stern got involved after Dan Gilbert, Marc Cuban, and other owners started barking. That’s why the whole thing seems so shady.

          And essentially the OWNERS killed this deal.

          • Those are some good points, however a young GM acting on his own, just doesn’t seem right in any way shape or form, especially when you don’t know if the GM will even be there when the new owner arrives. Now was it wrong for the NBA to get involved if they promised not to? Of course, and I agree with you on that it does all seem shady.

            However looking at it from just a purely basketball side, at least to me it seemed like a bad trade to made. I’ve listened to a bunch of these analysts talk about it, and they all seemed happy for Houston and LA ( I am sure those teams are more fun to write about). Every time someone was talking about how this trade is good for the Hornets, they only said it will keep them “competitive”. Now personally I think the worst thing to be in the NBA is being competitive without a real future. It just means you are chasing playoffs without a good pick in the draft or really any ability to make any great trade (unless you get lucky) to make yourself better. That is my problem when people blame Stern and everyone else. Is it shady? I think it kind of is, but at least to me it doesn’t change that the Hornets got the better deal.

          • Also just to be fair, I don’t think any owner knows of many trades until they brought to him, then they get involved in either liking them and accepting or using a veto and telling the GM what they want. I think like you said it just comes down to whether the NBA should have acted like an owner and done that.

  8. Chris,

    Thank you for being the only person with the balls to question to Stern about this travesty, especially in such a public forum. Frankly I’m a bit appalled about how quickly this whole mess seemed to die out and how easily Stern was let off the hook for this ridiculous misuse of power. Thanks to people like you continuing to pose these questions to Stern, he is forced to recognize that despite his propaganda we all know the truth behind his motives. Stern has a long list of stains tarnishing his legacy as commissioner, but in my opinion there is none greater than the trade veto – the moment when he was unmasked as nothing more than a puppet for the despicable owners like Gilbert, Sarver, and Jordan who are ruining the NBA with their miserly ways.

  9. It’s interesting because you’re not really questioning the judgment of Stern the Commissioner, but Stern the Hornets GM. He should be on the hook for the decision, since he overrulled Dell Demps so imperiously, but it’s probably not a sort of decision-making that he’s comfortable with.

    Probably too early to decisively say “that was a crap move for the Hornets” though, since their goals aren’t contention so much as finding a buyer and tanking for draft picks.

    • good lord, all the nike ads on this page take forever to load. hope they’re paying a lot for them cuz it’s definitely annoying.

  10. Chuck Franciscus says:

    As an avid Laker fan, I was opposed to this trade but a deal is a deal. It was agreed to by both sides. Stern has a vendetta with Derek Fisher over the labor negotiations and maybe that played a part in his decision. I watched this press conference live and Chris Sheridan is my new hero in sports. I have friends in the media who would have grilled Stern much the same way if given the opportunity. Basketball fans deserve better than this, not just Laker fans or Hornet fans etc.

    • Also a long-term Laker fan, I didn’t like the CP3 trade at first. But half a season after Stern broke all moral and ethical rules in vetoing the trade, I now think I was wrong. Yes, the Lakers had a unique strength in that front line of Gasol, Bynum, and Odom. But with the triangle offense gone, thanks to Jim Buss, it became most important to obtain a superstar point guard. Chris Paul plus Kobe plus Bynum plus some depth on the bench would have brought the Lakers through the post-triangle, post-Phil Jackson transition in a heartbeat. Stern knew this – several worried owners pointed it out to him in no uncertain terms. You don’t think Mark Cuban knew it? That is where it was a corrupt and rigged move – deliberately calculated to stymie the Lakers from reinventing themselves so quickly. Yep, I’m accusing Stern and those owners of collusion. New Orleans would have been better off with higher quality players in that trade, most with expiring contracts. They’re in the toilet now and will be for years. The Lakers are in the dumps and will be for years. Houston suffers. The Celtics suffer (worse draft pick than they would have had). Only the Clippers benefitted at all.

      The NBA is a foul, corrupt organization. I’m far less enthusiastic about watching games because I have seen clearlyl how much it is rigged. Might as well watch WWE.

  11. Funniest thing of all, though trading Chris Paul to the Lakers got Dan Gilbert all upset because it was another case of a star forcing his way to a big market, trading him to the exact same city, L.A., but to the Clippers didn’t? Now I see why Le Bron left Cleveland, Gilbert is a joke. When he said that the trade would also have cut the Lakers payroll, and that he as a small market owner would lose out on money from revenue sharing I almost threw up. It makes me sick as a Lakers fan that the Lakers will have to share some of their profits with Gilbert.

  12. Sheridan, great job during the conference. As you put it, it was quite a reasonable question, and Stern simply knew he messed up. The original trade was much better, but then ‘basketball reasons’ happened.

  13. Craig Hasan says:

    this comments page is clearly full of Laker haters. oh the veto was the right thing, WHY, because it was a superstar joining the Lakers? i guarantee that if the trade had been paul going to any other team, nobody would have had anything to say. no one has anything to say about paul going to the clippers.

    • DeeBasketballGuy says:

      I agree with you totally. It’s a good deal because it prevented the Lakers from getting a good player.

      It’s laughable how people think that N.O. got a much better deal in the end. Building around Eric Gordon (do you know that he plans to stay)?

      Yeah, the original deal would have sent older players with bigger contracts. However it gives you a better chance of competing. And why do you assume that this is the only deal that Demps was going to make? Maybe he packages Scola and Odom in a deal and sends them to a contender that’s willing to sacrifice young talent or a higher draft pick?

  14. V. Roberts says:

    Unnecessary Mayweather slander.

  15. It seems to me that a lot of criticism of the basketball reasons is based on the fact that Eric Gordon got injured after 2 games. They couldn’t predict that.

    Scola, Martin, Dragic and Odom basically commits the Hornets to a lot of salary just to be a fringe playoffs team. Houston mark 2. Not just salary the league has to pay, but salary and players a buyer has to deal with before they can impose their own vision on the team, and then the Hornets would only have got a mid-range draft pick this year,

    Someone buying the Hornets now basically gets to rebuild around Gordon and touch wood a top 3 draft pick and whatever they can get for Kaman’s expiring. They can rebuild the team however they want apart from that, and Gordon is a very valuable trade asset if the new owner really doesn’t like him for some reason. Still the right decision, even if the way they went about blocking the Lakers trade was really bad (it should have been “veto’d” before it was ever made public as a done deal).

  16. Also the notion that Stern “SCREWED” The Lakers is a MYTH and BS.

    He had to do what the OWNERS TOLD HIM TO DO. THEY OWN THE HORNETS.

    Get this thru your heads, DAVID STERN WAS MERELY THE FIGUREHEAD, NOT THE PERSON DECIDING WHICH TRADE WAS ACCEPTABLE.

    • DeeBasketballGuy says:

      Owners have self-interests that many pointed out would be a big problem (Phil Jackson) if/when basketball decisions had to be made. That’s why Sperling and Demps were put in place to make basket decisions for the Hornets.

      1. Owners can’t (shouldn’t have) power to veto trades that don’t involve their teams
      2. In acting as representative, Stern is still not an ACTUAL owner (people with the power to veto trades)
      3. You can’t be acting commissioner and owner (representative) at the same time because of the conflict of interest
      4). Stern could say the sky was brown and half the commentors here would believe it

  17. Sheridan how can you say the other trade was better?
    The Hornets would be tied down in mediocrity with a bunch of 30 year olds and no financial flexibility
    It is incredibly perplexing, someone who claims to know the NBA, would honestly portray the Laker deal as better.

    No freakin way man

  18. The trade with the lakers was not a good one for New Orleans. Every year they would have been stuck in the 7-12 range in the Western Conference with a high payroll and low flexibility. As OKC is proving the best way to rebuild in a small market is to bottom out and stockpile high draft picks.

    • DeeBasketballGuy says:

      Dude, N.O. is not even going to be #12 in the West this year or any time soon. They’ve already shopped Chris Kaman, who was part of this trade. The Hornets would have gotten way more talent in the original trade. I don’t see Gordon staying there long-term. The draft pick has the same value as the 1st deal.

      • Alex Howard says:

        Way more talent? I suppose if you knew Gordon would be gone all year its way more talent, otherwise hes the best player in the deal with the most potential. And that draft pick was worth more at the time. These are the breaks of the game.

        EJ doesnt have to stay long term to net them other assets, he will have more value than a bunch of 30 year olds on the decline.

  19. Great question , David Stern was a coward not answering it.

  20. Thank you for posing that question to Commissioner Stern. I was quite upset that a story of this magnitude was swept under the rug as the season progressed.
    I watched the entire press conference on NBAtv and was delighted when Mr. Sheridan posed that question. You can immediately notice a change in Stern’s demeanor; he put on a smug smile and carefully chose his words as he responded in a condescending and belittling manner towards Mr. Sheridan.
    I was nothing short of disgusted from Stern after that exchange. He keeps sweeping this controversial and scandalous incident under the rug when he should come out and flat-out say it was a huge gaff on his part. He single-handedly changed the immediate and long-term futures of a handful of teams in this league who were hard at work in trying to make their rosters better. Shame on you commissioner. If he can blatantly lie and manipulate the truth in something that was in the public eye, who knows what’s going on behind the scenes.
    Good luck getting in any questions with Stern in the future Mr. Sheridan. He clearly took exception to you digging up dirt. I hope more journalists press him on this matter.

  21. Good job Chris. Way to be persistent .

  22. Robert murphy says:

    Chris,

    Great questions, article, and reporting. I’m a Lakers and NBA fan that’s still very upset about that trade that was declined. Obviously as a Lakers it hurts to know what could have been with two killers on the court with Kobe and Paul. I think Mitch and the Lakers had another move that was going to happen after, but who knows now. Rockets would have got that center piece they wanted to grow with and would have enjoyed a talent Pau in there city. Hornets would be a true playoff contender with great upside in the future. Also a fan based turned on with great play and maybe more interesting to a potential bidder. In hindsight I wish the Lakers and Rockets ownerships and management would have been more publicly outraged, really putting Stern out there to roast. Thanks again for chasing this issue down again.

    • DeeBasketballGuy says:

      “Our” Lakers appear to have bigger problems with Jim Buss now. Stern screwed us big time whether intentional or not, because we desperately need a play-making PG (and a good wing scorer. Kobe should not be handling the ball this much, especially late in his career.

  23. You vetoed Houston Rockets? Houston was not impacted? Your forgetfulness, or neglect, is regretful. And somehow the Rockets are 17 up in their last 24. Where might that franchise be, darling or not, if the deal had moved forward?

  24. DeeBasketballGuy says:

    Just to ad to add to my previous point, Jac Sperling and Dell Demps, were in fact the appointed “Representatives” of the owners. Stern never had any basis for interfering with trades. And this what created the whole fiasco and conflict of interest.

    Even if Stern was acting on the behalf of the owners, it’s obviously a conflict. Because we’ve seen emails from Dan Gilbert and Marc Cuban. These guys were against the deal basically because it was the Lakers involved. That’s why Sterling and Demps were put in place — to prevent the self-interests of the owners to interfere with the basketball operations for the New Orleans Hornets.

  25. DeeBasketballGuy says:

    Great article, Chris.

    I think that there is a big FLAW in Stern’s logic. He keeps saying that OWNERS veto trades, but he was acting as a representative of the owners in the case. So, Stern is still acting outside his authority in my opinion.

    • i`m a laker fan and i really HATE that CORRUPT DAVID STERN, DAN GILBERT, MARK CUBAN… How can they STOMACH now the MONEY that the LAKERS are “subsidizing” to them. Shame on you all including those hands that STUFFS food unto a mouth, food that comes from those money!

  26. the trade veto cost Houston Gasol, Nene, Jeremy Lin (who they had to cut), and Chuck Hayes (who they couldn’t sign)

Trackbacks

  1. [...] since I was 28, and the allure of being surrounded by mobs of people, getting stuck in traffic and being spoken to condescendingly when asking a legitimate question of the commissioner has me down on this whole [...]

  2. [...] Chris Sheridan: Stern Ducks Question on “Veto” of CP3-to-Lakers Deal: Let me get this out of the way — this article is not a bad article. Quite the opposite, in [...]

  3. [...] They are the worst team in the Western Conference, they are about to trade Chris Kaman for whoever ponies up the best bad offer, and all they are going to have to show for Chris Paul is Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon (if he doesn’t leave as a restricted free agent, and if his knee is ever going to be OK again), along with a draft pick (originally belonging to Minnesota) that is roughly the equivilent of the pick (originally belonging to the Knicks) that they would have gotten in the original three-team trade with Houston and the Lakers that was vetoed squashed by commissioner David Stern (the semantics of exactly what took place were the subject of the above debate between Mr. Stern and Mr. Sheridan at his All-Star Weekend press conference). He ended up ducking the question. [...]

  4. [...] Sheridan elected to not only question Stern about the deal, but push him when the response was less than forthright. Here’s the transcript: [...]

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