Officials from New Orleans, Houston and Los Angeles were stunned Thursday night. The killed trade had ripple effects everywhere in free agency and potential trades, pushing the market into paralysis on the eve of training camps opening Friday.
“We were all told by the league he was a tradeable player, and now they’re saying that Dell doesn’t have the authority to make the trade?” said an NBA executive who had periodic talks with New Orleans throughout the process. “Now they’re saying that (Hornets GM) Dell (Demps) is an idiot, that he can’t do his job. [Expletive] this whole thing. David’s drunk on power, and he doesn’t give a [expletive] about the players, and he doesn’t give a [expletive] about the hundreds of hours the teams put in to make that deal.
“How do the Lakers explain this to Odom? How does Houston deal with the guys it just tried to trade? Scola and Martin are going to be pissed at them, and who knows how long that takes to get over? Explain to me how the league kills this Pau Gasol deal, but allows Kwame Brown for Pau Gasol?
“To me, this makes the league feel like it’s rigged, that Stern just does whatever Stern wants to do. He’s messed up the competitive balance of this league a lot worse by killing the deal because you’ve completely destroyed the planning that New Orleans and Houston did and left them in shambles over this. I’ve never been so discouraged about this league, never so down.
“I mean, come on: Chris Paul is leaving New Orleans in 66 games. He’s gone. And what’s Dell Demps, and that franchise, going to have to show for it?”
A few things:
- Did the 'small-market owners' who bitched about the trade think this through? New Orleans gets some quality players from the Rockets and another first-round pick in a draft that should be loaded with players who stayed an extra season. The first 20 picks in the 2012 draft will, by and large, be awfully good players. If anything, the Hornets did what all small-market teams should do: If you come to an impasse with a star, get the best deal you can and move on. The irony is that the team is owned by the league. Chris Paul is going to leave at the end of the current season, and if Stern stands by his guns nixing the trade, the Hornets have almost no leverage in making another deal. Paul leaves at the end of the season and they're fucked (and, in hindsight, they probably should be. New Orleans is a horrible basketball market and they should've left the team in Oklahoma City after the hurricane).
- Dan Gilbert apparently knows very little about running a franchise, save unlocking the arena doors 41 nights a year when he has the league's most marketable player on his team. The Paul trade wasn't a travesty and wasn't going to make the Lakers a super-team (whatever that means). Who the fuck is going to play up front for the Lakers after they move Gasol and Odom?
- David Stern makes Roger Goodell (who came out of the NFL lockout looking like shit) look like the smartest commissioner in sports. I don't think he gets it. The last decade or so convinces me there's a lot more David Sterling in the guy than we want to think: He'll pay guys he wishes weren't so black to enrich himself and the other owners, but he'll be damned if they come away looking smarter than him.