If the last 24 hours was a precursor to what the next 15 days have in store for the NBA, its teams and its fans, then we’re all in for a whirlwind.
The Lakers came close to landing another superstar to play alongside Kobe Bryant, but David Stern stopped it a mere three or so hours after it had been made public. The trade would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers, sent Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and given the New Orleans Hornets Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, plus a first-round 2012 draft pick. It’s hard to believe the Hornets would have gotten a better offer for Paul from anyone else. If you think that trade is lopsided, you must’ve thought the trade that brought Gasol to the Lakers in the first place was a heist.
Any deal presented to the Hornets for Paul would’ve been considerably hard to ratify. The Hornets, without an owner, are at the mercy of the league and the other 29 owners. If the thinking was that the Hornets were going to be less appealing to a potential buyer without a superstar like Chris Paul, what’s the outlook going to be when the market realizes the team’s number one asset is going to walk at the end of the season and get nothing in return for him?
This isn’t baseball where you get compensated in the draft when your free agent walks. The Lakers, Rockets and Hornets constructed a deal that would benefit each team. Houston would get Gasol, the center they lost in Yao Ming. The Lakers, in need of a younger, quicker point guard, would get the league’s premier ball handler in Paul. Lastly, the Hornets would get a conglomeration of players, whose combined talent and skill, not only rivaled, but topped what the Denver Nuggets got from the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony last season.
The Hornets would’ve started the season with the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, a 20/20 guy, an up-and-coming shooter, a first-round pick and the guy who was once Steve Nash’s understudy. Hornets’ general manager, Dell Demps, set New Orleans up perfectly. Had they been given the chance to play a few games — and won — maybe the league wouldn’t have found it so difficult to find a new owner.
The league wants us to believe that they nixed the trade for “basketball reasons,” (whatever that means) but in reality, all NBA Commissioner David Stern did was act upon a premonition. Maybe Stern believes he put a stop to what could’ve resulted in another super team forming. If the deal had gone through for the Lakers, it would’ve made it that much easier for them to eventually bring Dwight Howard to L.A., either via trade or free agency.
The Lakers retain their best trading chip in Andrew Bynum, allowing them to wait just long enough for the Orlando Magic to get desperate and pull the trigger on Howard. The Lakers don’t get Howard straight up for Bynum, but they do still have the financial flexibility (after getting rid of two of their top-tier salaries) to take on, say Hedu Turkgolu’s contract, making the deal for Howard more enticing.
In the alternative, the Lakers merely wait for Howard to become a free agent. Not only do they have the name and location to attract a player of Howard’s caliber, but now they have arguably the best backcourt since Jerry West and Gail Goodrich, in Kobe and Paul, to sweeten the deal.
Next Page: Stern Panics, Cancels Trade