David Stern's heavy-handedness already costing the Lakers dearly
If only the NBA listened to Phil Jackson.
The Zen Master saw such a doomdsay scenario coming. The NBA owns the New Orleans Hornets and could find itself in a compromising situation should guard Chris Paul demand a trade, he said. But instead of working to ensure the front office had complete independence, the NBA ignored Jackson. As perhaps a way to say thank you, ESPN Los Angeles' Dave McMenamin reported the NBA then slapped Jackson with a fine.
Perhaps the league should return that fine money to the Lakers, a small concession for all the mess it has created in the past week. The NBA nixed last week's trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers, Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to the Rockets. And the Lakers remain in shambles in more ways beyond losing to the Clippers in their pursuit toward Paul.
1. The Lakers couldn't upgrade at point guard - There's some understandable skepticism at the Lakers taking away their front line depth and concern about Paul's balky knees. Sure, there are some risks involved. But adding speed only gives the Lakers a better chance to keep up with the leading contenders in Oklahoma City and Miami. The Lakers also would have had an injection of youth with the 26-year-old Paul and 24-year-old Andrew Bynum. Plus, there's one reason those frontline concerns could become mitigated...
2. The Lakers' chances at obtaining Dwight Howard now become slim. Sheridan Hoops' Chris Sheridan reported that the league felt concern the Lakers were close to flipping a deal involving Bynum as the centerpiece in a deal for Howard. A Paul-Kobe Bryant-Howard tandem would've made the Lakers instant championship title favorites.
3. The Lakers wouldn't have suffered the embarrassing fallout with Odom and Gasol. Sure, neither would've loved being on their respective rosters in New Orleans and Houston. But the Lakers wouldn't be in current limbo. They lost Odom when the Lakers overreacted to his trade demands and shipped him and a second-round pick to Dallas for a first-round pick and $8.9 trade exception. It's nice Gasol has maintained a professional attitude, and should help the Lakers should they keep him. The roster has channeled its uncertainty into hard practice efforts, but the team needs more stability.
4. The Lakers wouldn't need to make modest free-agent acquisitions. Signing Josh McRoberts to a mini mid-level exception is a solid pickup for a hustling reserve. But where are the Lakers' big moves? They pulled out of talks Saturday with Houston and New Orleans over a possible Paul deal, and couldn't regain ground over the Clippers.
5. The Clippers are generating more positive buzz than the Lakers. It's a stretch to say the Clippers could boast L.A.'s best basketball team once the 2011-12 season starts on Christmas Day. The Lakers are still more talented. But the Lakers' front office deserves blame for miscalculating on Odom and its inability to bounce back from Stern's rejection. Nonetheless, the Lakers wouldn't have any of these problems had Stern not interfered in the first place.
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Photo: NBA Commissioner David Stern rejected a deal last week that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Credit: Eduardo Munoz / Reuters / October 11, 2011