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.