Yesterday’s roller coaster of emotions, shocking moments and plain out hilarity was one to remember for sure. From Eddy Curry preparing to eat the Heat (with a side-dish of Shane Battier), through the Suns playing it very safe by signing Bassy Telfair and (I jokefully predicted it a few months ago) Shannon “Dunkz” Brown to very sensible one year deals, Tyson Chandler getting signed to a very *khem* lulz-worthy contract if you will, that instantly left the Knicks without a point guard, all the way to Jason Kapono leaving for the Lakers. (Read all about it here)
Did I forget something?
Of course I did. The few precious hours that Chris Paul was a Laker were hi-friggin-larious. Everyone telling Laker fans to essentially shut the f**k up, and praying that they don’t get Dwight Howard to pair with the Point God. They sure as hell got their wish, as a wicked and loud “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA” erupted throughout twitter and chat rooms, as every single person that wasn’t a Laker fan was rejoicing the “good” news — the League Office blocked the trade, because the owners were angry over it. After the barrage of joy, came the criticism.
Dangerous precedent, they said. League controlling the trade market. I saw Laker fans threatening to boycott the league, players screwing training camps, Chris Palmer crying, Ken Berger suffering through his first post-lockout (the lockout officially ended just as the trade rumours surfaced, by the way) mental breakdown as the anger and panic over reports upon reports of various reasonings for Stern’s decision to block the trade started showing up. And then, the League spokesman said the decision was based on “Basketball Reasons.”
It didn’t take the phrase long to become the next “how u?” (all while, mind you, Lamar Odom was pulling a Roger Mason Jr.). People mocked it, people made jokes about it, people just couldn’t believe that the league would go to these lengths to prevent CP3 to go where he wants, basing their negative assessment on a sources report of David Stern spewing anti-free market hate. The basketball reasons thus became a joke before they were ever discussed, they became a symbol of David Stern’s hypocritical nature, of his desire to keep power, of the owners greed, of the divide between millionaires and billionaires. Just as much as “how u?” was a phrase of what could’ve been, “basketball reasons” are a phrase of what we have, a league controlled by David Stern.
What’s worrying is that until a Ric Bucher tweet posted when I was writing this post, nobody ever tried to see the reasoning behind the block, nobody ever considered that there were basketball reasons to stop it from happening, and it wasn’t Marc Cuban, Robert Sarver or Donald Sterling shouting “noooooooooo” at the top of their lungs as soon as they got a text telling them that the Western Conference just got way harder. Nope. There were basketball reasons, reasons that if you recap the trade were quite clear, really.
Let me remind you what New Orleans was giving and what they were getting here while giving up Chris Paul and (probably, not confirmed) Emeka Okafor. a Knicks first rounder, Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom. Sounds nice on paper, doesn’t it? Scola is an above average PF, Odom has the ability to be a point-forward and there was a reason why Martin was Daryl Morey’s choice at shooting guard, he’s hellishly efficient. The Dragon? We all know what he can do. We also all know what he can’t do, and that is being a good starting point guard. What is the average age of that group? I didn’t bother doing the exact math, but it is around 28 or 29, with Dragic noticeably lowering it, too. If you’re a team losing a star, do you really want to get a bunch of vets that will keep you in contention just prior to a loaded draft? Do you really want to do that? Two mid-round picks when you can be in contention for Anthony Davis if you find a more suitable suitor for Paul? Sure, you have a team to build around. This team is also just in that Phoenix-zone of mediocrity. A zone that while ok if you want to retain your star for whatever morally influenced reason you have, is not fun to have if you just dumped him. Say the Clippers will see what it’ll take to get the Hornets to agree to a trade. At least Minny’s first round pick + prospects. Wouldn’t that situation (two high lottery picks) be a better way to recover from losing the best point guard in the league?
There is no doubt. No doubt in my mind that there was more to this than pure spite from David Stern. Yet nobody says it, nobody wants to not blame David Stern this time. Even if we were all whining about the trade when it was happening, we wanted to see it happen. We wanted to see Paul and Kobe fight over the ball. We wanted to see Mike Brown lose control, we wanted to see what would happen with that front court for the first 5 games if Okafor was dumped elsewhere (Denver, anyone?). Everyone was whining about how LA gave up enough for Paul, that they actually suffered losses. Losses that don’t mean much when you factor in the direction in which the Hornets should be going. Everyone was focused so much on the lines of the printed agreement, that they totally forgot to do something everyone should do in such situations — read between them.
A part of me wants to blame twitter for this. The story breaks there, everyone gets obsessive, and then theories from various (oh, how we love those) sources start chiming in with various accusations towards Stern, Cuban and the whole bunch, when the truth is that this whole circus started when the league started owning the Hornets, not when the trade was blocked.
Would this circus happen if we didn’t have instant access to semi-confirmed information? Would this happen if we were to rely on traditional media? I doubt it. The hysteria was strengthened by the likes of Ken Berger breaking down on twitter. Then they players chimed in, Lamar Odom went mental (then pretending to be hacked, as noted earlier.) in the end leaving us in a state of shock, once again blaming David Stern for taking all that is dear in our life — an illusion of fairness in the trade market. What I see is a screwed up ownership status of a team and its owner rejecting a trade.
Rejecting it, based on legitimate basketball reasons.