Yesterday was one of the craziest days in sports news I’ve ever experienced. First, it was Albert Pujols leaving the Cardinals to sign with the Angels, then it was the Chris Paul trade, and then the Chris Paul un-trade. I was told about the un-trade at theScore’s annual holiday party, and over the pounding music, I thought this was a veto in somebody’s fantasy league.

Nope, this actually happened in the National Basketball Association … and everybody is freaking the hell out about it.

Once I got over my initial confusion about what had transpired — commissioner David Stern stopped the trade because the league owns the Hornets and some owners reportedly called him to complain — it didn’t seem worthy of all this Twitter-fueled outrage. Doesn’t any owner of any sports team get the final say on every transaction the team makes? It just so happens that this team is co-owned by the other 29 NBA owners.

OK look, this situation is totally messed up. There’s no denying it. But if people are pissed off because they think Stern suddenly hates the Lakers or because he’s trying to prevent another “superteam,” they’re off the mark. Have we forgotten how great and successful last season was? Stern loves superteams! They’re great for business and generate a ton of fan interest. You can say a lot of things about Stern, but we all know he’s not dumb.

The problem here is that the league shouldn’t be controlling the Hornets in the first place. The reasons why the league blocked the Paul trade are irrelevant to me. If the league was unable or unwilling to find another owner to buy the Hornets from previous owner George Shinn — regardless of whether that new owner would keep the team in New Orleans — then they should have folded the team.

Of course, where Chris Paul would have ended up in the subsequent dispersion draft would have been a whole other box of snakes. If you don’t like that option, then after the league took over the Hornets, they should have mandated that the only transactions they were allowed to make were drafting players and signing players to minimum contracts. Neither of those are ideal solutions, but they’re both preferable to this sorry mess.

Where do we go from here? The players are angrier at Stern and the owners than they’ve ever been, many fans are more convinced than ever that the NBA is “rigged,” and poor Hornets GM Dell Demps just got his balls chopped off and held up for public display. It’s pretty frustrating for me to witness my favorite sports league embarrass itself like this. I guess we’ll all have to wait for Stern’s public statement about this in the hopes of making some kind of sense out of a situation that seems to defy any kind of logic about how a pro sports league is supposed to be run.

Comments (11)

  1. Disagree with you here. The NBA can own the team, but it has to allow the team to operate independently. There is not conflict of interest here if Dell Demps has full authority to make the necessary moves for his franchise (which is what the other NBA owners initially agreed upon, and what Stern said was the case when the league ownership was announced). By meddling in this trade, Stern has created this problem. The other 29 owners (who are competitors) having any say in the Hornets day-to-day operations is the problem, not the league ownership in and of itself.

  2. The NOLA/CP3 situation isn’t an example of why the NBA shouldn’t run a team. It’s an example of why people shouldn’t be assholes. If the other owners hadn’t put their own personal interests ahead of the league and the Hornets then this wouldn’t be an issue. It’s a people problem, not an institutional one. Which makes it that much harder to prevent from ever happening again.

  3. As a bulls fan, I’m glad this thing didn’t happen. Facing the nets in the first round, the knicks in the second round, and the heat in the ECF should be enough. Going through the lakers in the finals would have been hell.

    As an NBA fan, I’m disgusted. Seriously, WTF David Stern? You have a fiduciary duty to the hornerts, when you’re engaged in your role with the hornets, the concern of the other 29 nba owners don’t fucking matter.

  4. This is a disgrace. As upset as I was that the Lakers landed CP3, I was 100 times more upset that it got blocked. So where can CP3 go?? How would the Clippers have been different?? I guarantee the league wouldn’t have blocked that trade, and the only difference between the lakers and clippers is that one tries to win and one doesn’t. They’re both big market teams. The Lakers gave up huge pieces, and the Hornets made out great. I see no issues. If they had then swapped Bynum for Howard straight up…..sure, maybe then question things. But, this trade was totally legit. People already the integrity of this league so much, and this gives them all the more reasons (and has me questioning it more than I ever have).

  5. this makes no sense.. The Hornets got the better of the deal! Hornets would still make playoffs with that team, plus a draft pick.

  6. Hornets got a pretty good deal that wouldn’t have put them last place in the western conference like it will if Paul leaves via free agency this off season.

    What’s next, is the league is going to block which teams that unrestricted free agents can sign with?

  7. Your piece is about the only levelheaded one I have read on this. The NBA has a conflict of interest, pure and simple, so Stern can’t win on this one. Paul to LA feels corrupt, but so does nixing it. Demps can’t think like a real GM, because his current boss is a junta and the next ruler will toss him. Between dueling monopolies of labor and capital, it is folly to permit a third case – where owners and players BOTH seek to subvert the terms of the negotiated peace. Stern’s not evil, nor is Paul. They both are suffering the consequences of an uncleansable conflict of interest. Media folks should calm down and focus on the root cause.

  8. They really should have established these rules as soon as they took over the team. For that matter, the NBA should have a policy about how league-owned teams are run. There’s no way any Chris Paul trade is going to get approved now, so New Orleans fans are going to have to let him go for nothing once his contract is up.

  9. This was corrupt from the beginning. Stern has always wanted a superteam in the Lakers. He feels the NBA needs it for survival. The NBA is more fixed the the WWE. It’s sad. Congress should look into it and Stern should go to jail if they find evidence. The NBA has made billions and it there is any fixing going on it is criminal.

  10. I have two questions on all of that: Firstly, would the Lakers get so much better? They’d lose all thier great strenghts not named Kobe Bryant: Interior seize in combination with capable players and also the fact that they have been running together some time now. Not that Paul wouldn’t help on the latter on but, him, KB, Artest, what PF (Characters?!) and Bynum (or DH12 if that’s thier plan) and off the bench D-Fish, Barnes, Blake, Kapono. Is that so great?
    Secondly, why does nobody assume that this wasn’t a genious move by Stern. He somehow is a second GM in New Orleans and maybe refusing that trade and now engaging in new talks might get the Hornest even more out of Paul! That after all would be basketball reasons. You can say all you want about Stern but he knows bussines and is a hardballer (which unluckily we all know too well) – What if he just takes his job as an “owner” of the Hornets that serious!?!

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