A Defense of David Stern in the CP3 Debacle

Posted: December 9, 2011 in ALL II
Tags: , , ,

Chris Paul is still a New Orleans Hornets superstar.  Paul is still the only player to average 18pts/9ast/2stl through his entire career.  He is the franchise and everyone under the sun is furious.  I suppose not everyone is upset.  Many NBA owners probably think this is a great thing.  David Stern certainly likes the idea of voiding a mega-trade because he did it.  Allow me to make the case for why I am not upset about it and, in fact, like the move for basketball related reasons for the New Orleans Hornets.

The National Basketball Association owned the Hornets and can function as owner of the Hornets despite giving autonomy to second year GM Dell Demps.  It can veto or approve trades with all teams, especially teams it actually owns which, to me, represents the premier definition of conflict of interest.  It never felt good to me and I railed on this issue earlier on my radio show agreeing with Mark Cuban’s disgust in trading Marcus Thornton and straight cash [homie] considerations to the Kings for Carl Landry.  In the article, Cuban felt the trade to be comparable to revenue sharing and unfair since the owners owned the team.  This echoes sentiments expressed Phil Jackson foreshadowing conflict in his repeated questioning of what would happen if Chris Paul wanted to leave for another team.

Well, now we know.  The league wants us to believe that Stern axed the deal for basketball related reasons not owner pressure. “It’s not true that the owners killed the deal,” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. “The deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.”  Well Mr. Bass seems like a reliable source but the master of damning emails in highly unprofessional fonts seems to contradict that.  Ladies and Gentlemen Mr. Dan Gilbert’s email, courtesy of Yahoo Sports, expressed outrage over the deal but more importantly suggested that all 29 owners should vote on the deal, that most owners did not like, and focused exclusively on the Lakers. (Aside: Dan Gilbert is a goof. He became a big brat after Lebron left –which is somewhat understandable because I would be bummed and screaming eff  the world too- but has been unbearable on a good day and illogical on a bad day.  Simmons penned a very good piece on Grantland about this failed deal, Stern’s eroding power, and whiny owners that sums up how I feel.)  If I am an owner of another team, particularly an owner that felt like getting shafted by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, I would be mad as hell about the NBA shifting the prospects of basketball in favor of the already rich Lake Show.

For me, however, the issue is the principle.  As I am mad about Thronton for Landry, I am mad about any deal the league-owned Hornets make.  Why?  Because the league’s primary priority should be finding an independent owner for the team so she or he can make moves without a conflict of interest.  That is where all my anger lies.  If the NBA claimed that 2-5 owners wanted to buy the team and the league prevented the purchase because they could get a better deal and/or wanted stability in the new CBA, now is the time to get that owner.  The second that happens, they can make the same move, and it would be approved.  Boom, boom, boom.

While appearances are not reality, they make reality.  What this looks like is the league making a move, having owners backlash, and Stern preemptively taking the brunt of the punishment.  It looks like the Commish with broad power unjustifiably expanding those powers to control Front Office decisions.  People are speculating that he will control all trades to manipulate competitive balance! Conspiracy! Moon landing faked! Grassy Noll! Area 51! This is all overblown because 29 other teams have independent owners.  Get the friggin’ owner and get the trade done.

Let me also quickly address player mobility.  Credit the New Orleans Hornets (NBA?) with wanting to make a move before the season started to avoid the embarrassment of keeping a star who did not want to play in that city.  Some have thrown around the NBA players as slaves metaphor as Paul is being kept against his will.  Suffice it to say that multimillionaires with the ability to make millions elsewhere under contract does not look like a slave to me.  Still, ideally Paul should play where he likes but that should not come at the expense of the other team.  With that logic, major markets would be super huge and small markets would be talent breeding grounds.  Teams should respect player wishes, but should not forfeit the ability to rebuild going forward; if the ideal team does not have trade pieces that fit, sorry but you are not going there.  Seems fair to me.

Finally, let’s go back to basketball reasons.  As in Mr. Bass’ claim above about the league office voiding the deal.  I alluded to the conflict of interest in voiding a deal as a team owner versus voiding a deal as league commissioner but the idea of basketball reason matters given the context.  As many pointed out, the on-court basketball moves look good for all teams.    But league commissioner Stern is still concerned about selling this team to an owner for the highest value and keeping it in New Orleans.  Stern on Bloomberg News said he vetoed the trade because Chris Paul is more valuable in New Orleans.  Basketball reasons vs. value?  No!  Basketball reasons are value.  Keeping Paul may mean getting a better owner willing to keep the team there and spend money.

Or maybe not.  Who and I kidding!  While my biggest gripe are the owner-less Hornets and how it is costing Paul $30 million, this entire thing is absurd.  It sounds illegal.  I cannot in good faith defend this without thinking how crazy it is.  I do think Stern and the league did believe all that I wrote but it makes no sense.

Let summarize:

1)      League owned teams will always bring controversy!

2)      I don’t like league owned teams making trades but if you give control of the team to a person then stop butting in.

3)      Dan Gilbert is an idiot.

4)      NBA cannot stop tripping over its own feet.

5)      Still, the NBA can blow baseball out the water.


  1. P.C. says:

    Its an interesting piece – you make a solid argument – unfortunately, you, too, find it necessary to use the most over-used term in sport today —— superstar. If a player – irrespective of which sport – avoids tripping and/or drooling on himself, he is deemed a superstar — its come to a point where you can’t throw a stone without hitting a ‘superstar.’

    • I am hard pressed to think that Chris Paul is not a superstar. Maybe superstar implies more of a grasp of the media outlets or common fan; if that is the case then I think CP3 is certainly not a Superstar. If it is based exclusively on talent, then I think so because I think he is the best pure point guard in the league.

  2. M.G. says:

    Chris Paul is, at worst, a top 5 player in the league and the best player at his position. If he’s not a superstar than–can’t think of a good clause to finish that sentence, he’s a superstar.

  3. P.C says:

    How about ‘the best player at his position’ – or ‘the best player in his team’s division’. The term superstar is thrown around so often, about so many, that is has become meaningless – even trite. Allen, I think there is some merit to the term might apply to something bigger than mere competence – charismatic, perhaps. Everyone competing at the highest level is exceedingly talented, but then you have the Ali, the Magic Johnson or Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the Jim McMahon or Brett Favre or Joe Namath or Dick Butkus — something more. Throwing ‘superstar’ around willy-nilly diminishes real exceptionalism.

  4. K.N. says:

    Never thought I would hear anyone put Namath in the same group as Ali, Jordan, Butkus, Magic, or Kareem regardless of the scope of the argument. It’s a sad day. He isn’t famous for his play and is only relevant today because there is another inept, overrated QB in New Jersey and that whole alcoholic thing.

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