Having already discussed, at length, the issue of maintaining competitive balance among both small and large market teams during the course of the lockout, sending Paul to a perennial powerhouse would’ve gone against arguments the league made while negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement.
In other words, Stern panicked.
He still had to save face with the small market owners. Now Stern will have to save face with the players union, Chris Paul, the teams involved in the three-way trade and their respective fans.
That being said, just because Stern acted on a hunch doesn’t mean his last minute plug on the CP3 to L.A. deal was in the best interest of basketball. In fact, it affected the small market Rockets and Hornets more so than it affected the big market Lakers.
Killing the deal wasn’t in the best interest of loyal Hornet fans that will get 66-games of pick-and-roll wizardry from Paul before he bolts out of the Big Easy, leaving the team with nothing. It wasn’t in the best interest of Rocket fans that were left with little after Yao announced his retirement, but could’ve filled the void, had they gotten Gasol, and with enough cap space to sign Nene to a max contract, would’ve had given them a fairly decent frontline.
Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.
But maybe, just maybe, Stern’s giant axe was in the best interest of the Lakers. I’ll be honest. Initially, I didn’t believe the Lakers were in pursuit of Paul because they had been successful for so long without the need of a traditional point guard, and instead the Lakers could continue to rely on the strength of their length.
A trade for Howard in exchange for Bynum and Odom made the most sense. Coupling the strength of Howard with the finesse of Pau, the Lakers would mimic what they had with Pau and Bynum, minus the faulty knees. Yes, a trio of Kobe, Howard and Paul would’ve been a dream team, but regardless of what names look like next to each other, the game is played on the hardwood, and not on paper.
Chris Paul thrives on distributing the basketball. His strength is in setting up plays for others—spot up shooters and guys hanging in the wings, waiting for him to run a pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop to fuel their offense. How many current Lakers are catch-and-shoot guys? Not many. The Lakers are full of play makers. Kobe creates his own shots. Gasol has his own offensive artistry, perhaps the best for any big man in the league. The Lakers will be fine without Paul. I highly doubt the success of Coach Brown’s offense is contingent on the Lakers signing a clever guard.
Don’t get bent over backwards over Paul not coming to play alongside Kobe. Just try and look at the silver lining. This could’ve been a lousy trade for the Lakers for all we know. At the end of the day, the Lakers, albeit a little older, are still contenders.