The biggest headline for the NBA this offseason (besides the dreadful lockout) has been the L.A. Clippers acquisition of Chris Paul, instantly transforming the hopeless franchise into a contender. However, before CP3 was sent to the Clippers, a storm of criticism was directed at NBA commissioner David Stern for vetoing a trade that wold have sent Paul to the Lakers instead. It was a three team deal between the New Orleans Hornets, the Lakers, and the Houston Rockets. Technically speaking, the league did own the New Orleans Hornets, therefore giving Stern the right to veto a trade. But this was a major conflict of interest. How can the league maintain unbiased when it owns one of the teams? The Hornets management was hamstrung and at the mercy of Stern and his cronies.
It was universally agreed upon that the Hornets were getting a great deal for Paul; getting Lamar Odom from the Lakers and Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, and a 2012 first round pick from Houston (while Houston would get Pau Gasol from the Lakers) was a fantastic haul. What was even worse was the fact that the commissioner’s office cited “basketball reasons” for the vetoed trade. What the hell does that mean? Anyone with half a brain stem knew that Stern gave in to the disgruntled owners who cried foul over the trade. One of them was (predictably) Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who sent a very interesting email to Stern calling the trade a travesty. Now Stern works for the owners, and he also owns the Hornets. As I mentioned earlier, Stern has the right as an owner to veto the trade. He also is in the right for listening to his employers. But this just sets a terrible precedent. It’s a major conflict of interest. Former Laker coach and Hall of Famer Phil Jackson predicted this very scenario a year ago. Phil is never wrong.
This all stems back to the NBA lockout though. Stern had to really convince the hardline owners to accept the 50-50 split of BRI (basketball related income). These hardliners were willing to sacrifice the season in order to get what they want (53-47 split in their favor, with a hard salary cap, no guaranteed contracts, and salary rollbacks). In all honesty, I was on the owners side for the majority of the lockout. I understand the viewpoints of those who sided with the players; HOWEVER, bottom line is that no matter what profession you are in, if your company is losing money and they cut your salary, then you accept it. In what world do you ask for moar money or the same amount of money when your company is losing money? I’ve never been in favor of guaranteed contracts because I see all the time what happens to players once they get their fat paycheck. If it were up to me, I would make the amount of money earned per year based on performance that year. Obviously there would be provisions for injuries and such. That way, every player gets EXACTLY what they’re worth. And for those worries about getting cut whenever the team felt like it, a portion of the money would be guaranteed (after all, in the NFL it’s always about the guaranteed money).
But the one thing I can’t agree with is the concept of “competitive balance.” No matter what, you will never create an environment with perfect competition. It’s not realistic. Certain teams will always have moar allure and moar resources at their disposal. The NFL is able to emulate the closest semblance to competitive balance due to the enormous amount of revenue they bring in, which allows for revenue sharing. The NBA, as mentioned earlier, does not have that kind of revenue. (They’re losing money!) People like Dan Gilbert need to quit complaining; he knew exactly what he was getting in to when he bought the Cavaliers. They aren’t a big market team. As distasteful the manner in which Lebron James bailed Cleveland was, it’s time to move on Gilbert. Unfortunately, Stern felt compelled to give in to these hardliners after months of basically begging them to accept this deal; he had to show his good faith that steps were made to make the league moar competitively balanced where all the stars weren’t playing for big market teams. But last time I checked, some of the biggest upcoming teams are from smaller markets. You got the Memphis Grizzlies, Indiana Pacers, and my Oklahoma City Thunder.
Back to CP3. The Clippers almost gave up trying to acquire the star point guard after Stern once again vetoed their initial trade (which had them giving up Al Farouq-Aminu, Eric Bledsoe, and Chris Kaman). He wanted them to include budding shooting guard Eric Gordon and their 2012 first round pick. That would be ludicrous to give up that much. However, the trade eventually went through when the Clippers agreed to send both Gordon, the first round pick, Kaman, and Aminu while keeping Bledsoe. This trade ended up being better for the Hornets, which is what Stern wanted. But nonetheless, this whole situation stunk worse than Jack Guo. Thank goodness he’s hinted at retiring soon. It’s time for him to go. Yet there’s one moar thing I wanted to address before ending. The Clippers are being touted as the team to watch this season. And why wouldn’t they? Not only did they get Paul, but they also acquired veterans Chauncey Billups (who will play shooting guard instead of point guard) and Caron Butler. Their bench isn’t that bad either (although they’ll need another big). Pair those players with superstar Blake Griffin and a talented but raw DeAndre Jordan and you got yourself a pretty good team.
I believe that this would have been a 50 win team in a regular season. That’s the difference an elite point guard can make. They’ll definitely make the playoffs and will likely get a top 4 seed (I got OKC as 1, Dallas as 2, and the Lakers at 3). They might even surpass the Lakers by season’s end with all the drama they’re having (I gave them the 3 seed out of respect). They basically gave away Lamar Odom to nothing. They even gave him to the team that swept them out of the playoffs (Mavs)! Pau is not happy with all the trade discussions he’s been in. Andrew Bynum is always an uncertainty. Derek Fisher is still their point guard. They’re old. And most importantly, Kobe isn’t happy (both with management despite what he says and he’s getting a divorce). No doubt this will be an interesting season. But for now, I’m buying into the Clippers. (Even though Donald Sterling is still their owner…) Until next time people…
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