NBA Free Agents 2010: Why Chris Paul and the Lakers Shouldn't Happen

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NBA Free Agents 2010:  Why Chris Paul and the Lakers Shouldn't Happen

According to Yahoo! Sports sources, Chris Paul wants out out of New Orleans. 

New Orleans brass had allegedly promised Paul that the roster would be upgraded to improve his chances of contending for an NBA championship. 

Needless to say, New Orleans has done an excellent job upgrading the Hornets' roster this off-season, and the Hornets are poised to look like a Western Conference contender next year. So Chris Paul wants out.

Compared to the stink LeBron left in Cleveland, I'm all for Chris Paul demanding a trade from New Orleans.  What makes him different from LeBron is that New Orleans (maybe you've heard) won a freakin' Super Bowl this year! 

So aside from the fact that the Saints are an elite football team, New Orleans is a huge football city.  Cleveland...well. I have a bad feeling LeBron will announce "The Retirement" before any Cleveland team wins a championship.

The priceless headline this morning?  "LeBron Gives Paul Blessing to Seek Trade."  I didn't even read the article; did anyone else imagine LeBron in a pimped-out Vito Corleone get-up, stroking a cat, wearing a tuxedo, with a greasy 'stache and a cane leaning against his desk?  All he's missing is a giant, gaudy ring on his pinkie.  Oops.

People are saying Chris Paul might come to the Lakers-- I'm going to give you three quick reasons why that won't work. 

1.)  The Lakers don't play Paul's brand of basketball.  They have two 7-footers.  TWO!  And they both freakin' start!  The triangle offense does not require a true point guard, just a guy who can get open and hit threes (stares at Steve Blake and Derek Fisher).  The Lakers roster is good as it is to be a contender.  To add Paul would require that...

2.)  The Lakers would have to give up too much.  Who the hell would they trade?  Bynum?  L.O.?  Fish?  Artest?... Sasha Vujacic?  Yeah, maybe when my house starts pumping Heineken through the sink faucets.  Then again, that's what I said about moving Kwame Brown and getting Pau Gasol.  Never doubt Mitch the Magician. 

However, even Kupchak would concede that this just isn't a sound investment.  Remember, Chris Paul is playing without a meniscus in his knee.  The meniscus is a shock-absorber for your knees-- without it, every time you jump or put pressure on your knee, the two major bones in your leg are grinding against each other.  If that's not potential for future problems, I don't know what is.

3.)  In The Color of Money , Tom Cruise is Vincent, a hot-shot pool player, and Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie, his beleaguered, clearly exasperated mentor.  Cruise's character is a very raw, brash, and cocky pool talent who essentially wants to annihilate anyone that plays against him.

Eddie teaches Vincent to bide his time, play slowly, lose intentionally, and hustle the other players in order to make the most cash.

In a pivotal scene, Cruise goes absolutely berserk and shoots the lights out of a bar that he and Eddie had "scouted" to hustle—effectively destroying any potential revenue-streams.  What could have been thousands of dollars is essentially crapped out for $150 that Cruise's character wins in flamboyant fashion.

Eddie at this point delivers my favorite line in the movie:

"A hundred and fifty dollars?!  Vincent if you walk into a shoe store with a hundred and fifty dollars, you walk out with one shoe!"

I just described, in a nutshell, what Derek Fisher is to Kobe Bryant.  Derek Fisher and Kobe Bryant are good for each other, and most importantly, Fish is USED to him, the same way Kobe's teammates right now are getting used to him. 

Remember in 2007-2008, when the Lakers were atop the Pacific Division and in the running for the Western Conference—WITHOUT Pau Gasol?  A lot of people forget that Pau Gasol came mid-season, when the Lakers were already looking like the best in the west.  Derek Fisher was a huge part of that success; Fisher knows how to get the most out of Kobe, even where Phil Jackson may fail sometimes.

Chris Paul can't deal with Kobe; they might be friends off the court, but Chris Paul will never be the competitor Kobe is.  Kobe has Michael Jordan's competitive disorder; I think I actually saw an entry for it in the DSM-IV, complete with the Michael Jordan rookie-card photo for reference.  Let's get back to Chris Paul's trade request and his other star-studded destinations, though.

What disappoints me is that instead of guys who want to stick to their guns and work with what they have, "The Decision" has spurred players to actively seek to join championship teams. 

What was initially a move reserved for ring-desperate, over-the-hill veterans (visions of Barkley/Drexler with the Rockets and Malone/Payton with the Lakers come to mind) has become the NBA's latest tred.

Reggie Miller, the one person who would have benefited from such a move (Reggie Miller would have thrived in Ray Allen's current situation), criticized Malone and Payton for taking pay cuts to join the Lakers in 2004, saying once, "I'm not like other guys out there who leave their team and try to chase a ring." 

Karl Malone, with muscles bulging, responded, "Just say you did it for the money, Reggie."  Malone then proceeded to rip a grizzly bear in half like a phone book. 

What Malone didn't understand, however, and what Reggie was definitely on to, was that Indiana fans are rabid about basketball.  Their love for the game is infectious.  There are still die-hard basketball fans who care more about teams than they do about players.

Even in LA, the fairest-weather city in the world, Laker fans stood by Kobe; even after Shaq was traded, whined about being betrayed, went on to win another NBA title, and was the toast of the NBA, Laker Nation held strong and expected Kobe to be surrounded with decent talent so they could have another run at championships. 

The difference between Kobe and Shaq, at least to fans in LA, was the same thing any other fan of a team would say—Kobe is playing for the Lakers.  Shaq was wearing a Heat jersey. 

A little prosaic, sure, but what good is following basketball when your star just wants to win rings and cement his "legacy", and is willing to [redacted] himself out to any team with cap room and other superstars to do it? 

How are you supposed to sell pipe dreams and perennial disappointment, endure pain with a team and identify with its players when its marquee player is only willing to carry the team as long as the load isn't too heavy?

All the shuffling of chairs on the deck are becoming depressing for the NBA.  If big-market teams are the only ones that are going to be contenders, what's the point of having other, smaller market teams? 

Promising stories like the O.K.C. Thunder and Kevin Durant, the emergence of the Milwaukee Bucks, and the Memphis Grizzlies' unexpected improvement last year would get buried underneath analysts arguing their faces blue about teams that are actually contending for a title. 

Is that what we really want, a less competitive league with the recent influx of talent being concentrated on larger market teams?  I sincerely hope not, and I hope with equal sincerity that Commissioner Stern puts his foot down on all this tampering some time soon.

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