Leave it to me to try to catch up on Wednesday’s episode of Survivor for 20 minutes and miss the news that turned the NBA player market on its head. As I watched Jeff Probst hand “Coach” the immunity necklace and Brandon continue to play one of the worst social games in Surivor history, the logjam of NBA headlines Thursday got even more logjammy after one moot rejection.
Chris Paul all but got to hold up that Lakers jersey in a press conference at the Staples Center, after news broke the Lakers landed the highly sought-after point guard in a blockbuster three-team deal.
Instead, some owners bitched and moaned to His Royal Highness David Stern and he obliged. For now, Paul remains a Hornet, Pau Gasol a Laker, and Lamar Odom a recurring character on the Kardashians’ 63 reality shows.
Paul reacted to the news with one word on Twitter: “WoW.”
Just out of principle, as a loyal Warriors fan, I hate the Lakers as much as the next big hoops fan. But the NBA and Stern reacted in the worst way possible, displaying an incredible lack of discretion with this move. If you fail to see that in the same, objective way, you need to take your Laker-hater goggles off.
The NBA is not fantasy basketball, but that’s what it’s essentially equated itself to with this injunction. Anyone whose played fantasy sports is familiar with the situation: the douche-bag owner in the league makes a lopsided trade that lands him one of the best players, so the rest of the league complains to the commissioner and asks him to nix the deal because we all think we have this entitlement to a fair life.
Truth is, though, that the Hornets were the ones looking like the winners of the trade, not the douchey Lakers. New Orleans could have picked up Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, Lamar Odom and a first-round pick. Not bad for a team whose other option in return for Paul was nothing.
The Rockets came up looking all right as well, picking up a guy who averages a double-double in Gasol, and are still very much in the running to land free agent center Nene.
But instead several owners focused on the Lakers. The team whose new head coach is named Not Phil Jackson. The team who also wants Dwight Howard but would have had hardly any pieces to get it done. The team whose core would have been Paul, a 33-year-old Kobe Bryant, a guy in Andrew Bynum who hasn’t been healthy for more than 65 games in each of the last four seasons and a borderline crazy person who changed his name to Metta World Peace because he seriously thought it would actually create world peace.
Oh, the mighty Lakers!
Bitter owners, of whom includes Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and reportedly Mavs over Mark Cuban, lobbied Stern saying this was a conflict of interest by the NBA, which controls the financially beleaguered Hornets. And to a certain extent they do have a point. One of the resolutions coming from the lockout (which officially came to an end Thursday) was that there was supposed to be more of a competitive balance between big-market franchises and small-market franchises on the player market.
The funny thing, though, is we didn’t hear anybody complaining about a conflict of interest when big-market clubs such as the Warriors, Clippers and Celtics looked like the front-runners to land Paul.
Let’s not fool ourselves. The lockout was meant to give owners more money, not so the Charlotte Bobcats or Milwaukee Bucks can have a better shot to sign Dwight Howard. Owners pushing Stern to nullify the trade is about competitive balance no more than it is about owners being peeved they got outwitted by a team that a few days ago was on the outside looking in.
The league denies any irate owners played a part in its decision, instead citing “basketball reasons” for intervening.
Basketball reasons? What the hell does that even mean?
Yes, by citing “basketball reasons,” the NBA just gave the Lakers a new spin on the “It’s not you, it’s me” line. George Costanza is impressed.
To me, “basketball reasons” would qualify as a high school player completely sacrificing his social life to focus on getting a scholarship, or maybe fans asking ultra-rich players and even-more-rich owners to end a disastrous work stoppage because they miss basketball, or maybe why I’m rambling on for nearly 1,000 words right now.
Those are legitimate “basketball reasons” to me. Not some bullshit excuse to void a perfectly legitimate trade because a faction of owners got irritated the glamor team from Hollywood outshined them again.
What is with this entitlement to a fair life we as humans think we all have? It’s cliche to say but life really isn’t supposed to be fair. And if life’s not supposed to be fair, then—news flash, people—sports aren’t supposed to be fair, either. I’m a Warriors fan who’s also been unemployed for the last six months, so trust me on this.
Remember back when the NBA’s biggest problem was that funky new ball none of the players liked playing with? Those days seem like the Enlightenment compared to now.
The NBA has now created an absurd precedent for trades. For at least the near future, every trade and its level of fairness is going to be compared to the Paul trade. That’s the Pandora’s Box the NBA has opened. Obviously, it isn’t going to veto every single trade that doesn’t make the entire league happy. That’s just preposterous. Doing it even once was more than enough.
The league overreacted by nixing this trade. David Stern is clearly high off his ass with power. It was a knee-jerk reaction on his part. But at least now when the going gets tough in life, I know who to call for help.