Chris Paul deal: NBA must admit its mistake, reverse decision
With all the anger spurred by the NBA's rejection of a trade that would've sent the New Orleans Hornets' Chris Paul to the Lakers, Commissioner David Stern needs to host his own one-hour special to explain his "Decision."
He must apologize for flexing his muscle in the front-office operations of the Hornets', a team owned by the league. He must acknowledge that some team owners, including the Cleveland Cavaliers' Dan Gilbert, urged Stern to intervene in the deal. He must admit he failed during the recent labor negotiations to come up with a way to keep this situation from happening. And then he must backtrack and allow the trade to go through.
Why? Basketball reasons, of course.
But this time, instead of a disingenuous cover for Stern's desire to restrict player movement, "basketball reasons" would serve as a legitimate argument beyond minimizing the public-relations damage from rejecting the proposed Lakers-Hornets-Houston Rockets deal. Stern's explanation to Bloomgberg doesn't cut it: "The decision was taken that Chris Paul in New Orleans was more valuable than the trade that was being discussed."
Paul's departure from the Hornets appears inevitable once he becomes a free agent next July. For the Lakers to acquire Paul in this deal, they would shed one of the top NBA forwards in Pau Gasol and one of the league's most versatile players in Lamar Odom. For the Rockets to receive Gasol, they would send three potential starters in Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick to New Orleans. The Hornets would trade their most valuable asset but would receive plenty in return, far more than if Paul just bolted as a free agent.
The rejection of the deal sets bad precedent.
There would be no way Stern could justify any Paul trade after this, but that would just devalue a Hornets franchise that already lacks ownership. It would make other teams unsure on how to proceed with free agency and trades as training camp opens Friday. And it would create further skepticism if the New Jersey Nets can acquire Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu for Brook Lopez and two first-round picks to team up with Deron Willaims.
Allowing the Paul trade would save the NBA's credibility. That requires Stern to own up to his mistake and reverse course.
-- Mark Medina
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Photo: New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul looks to pass under pressure from Lakers power forward Pau Gasol and point guard Derek Fisher during a playoff game last season.