NBA Should Block David Stern After Absurd Chris Paul Trade Rejection

Robert Kleeman@@RobertKleemanSenior Analyst IDecember 9, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 10:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks at a press conference after the NBA and NBA Player's Association met to negotiate the CBA at The Helmsley Hotel on November 10, 2011 in New York City.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

New Orleans Hornets GM Dell Demps had all but secured a commendable haul for disgruntled star point guard Chris Paul on Thursday night. He procured the L.A. Lakers’ top reserve, two of the Houston Rockets best players, a key bench cog and a pair of draft picks.

Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic were jettisoned against their wishes, but the executives involved were thoughtful enough to consummate a deal in time to afford them full training camps with their new squads.

The NBA’s totalitarian commissioner, then, did his best Scrooge “Bah Humbug” impersonation and executed one of the lousiest power plays in sports history. David Stern, according to multiple outlets, nixed a trade that would have sent Paul to the league’s most glamorous franchise because the same hard-liners who propagated and orchestrated an extended lockout threw a hissy fit.

Read Adrian Wojnarowski’s Yahoo! Sports report for the gruesome details. Keep reading this column to find out why the painful but obvious next move must happen.

Stern cannot impeach or fire any of the gutless, two-faced bosses who have conspired to ruin a thriving association, but he can give himself the boot. If he cannot make that sensible decision on his own, it might thrill Leslie Alexander and Jerry Buss to lead a charge.

Buss and Alexander wanted to play basketball all along, but sanctimonious peers insisted they hold the season hostage in the name of a phony competitive balance scheme.

Stonewalling this transaction screws two miffed GMs in Houston and New Orleans. It handcuffs a shrewd GM in L.A. It forces four players to return to organizations that no longer wanted them Thursday night. Forget awkward—this is embarrassing.

Stern should remove his spiffed-up business attire and replace it with a clown suit. He has become a power-crazed pawn and the chief architect of his own assassination plot. By killing the NBA’s credibility, he’s pulling a gun on himself. His name graces the leather Spalding balls that referees toss up to start each contest.

His name on the ball, his mess.

Cleveland Cavaliers Owner Dan Gilbert spearheaded the effort to whack the three-team exchange, according to Wojnarowski. The same buffoon who humiliated himself and his organization with a Comic Sans, unprofessional grandstand after LeBron James bolted has convinced Stern with a bogus plea to swoop in and stop a fair deal.

It looked ridiculous for the league to send one of its finest players from a cash-strapped franchise to one with 17 titles hours after completing a revamped collective bargaining agreement. Appearances can deceive.

Gasol, a future Hall of Famer, made the Lakers nearly unbeatable in his first three campaigns there. Odom provided enviable flexibility for former coach Phil Jackson as a versatile forward capable of producing at multiple positions. The Rockets parted with two fan favorites and building blocks who loved Houston and expected to finish their deals there. Martin and Scola handled Thursday’s bumpy ride with stunning class.

Dragic backed up Kyle Lowry, and those two Rockets picks could have become valuable in the next draft or two.

How can Demps find a better deal than that? He surrendered the Hornets’ face and chief attraction but landed enough pieces to both compete in the playoffs this year and in future free agency frenzies. Stern looks a lot more ridiculous now than the trade ever did.

How can the NBA justify allowing Demps to deal Paul to anyone, since that would suggest Stern’s new henchman could play favorites as long as the decision injures a big-market squad? Demps finalized a laudable transaction to save New Orleans from an empty-handed abyss next summer. Stern and a segment of the Hornets’ 28 owners repaid him by throwing a grenade at his office that would blow up in his face come July 2012 if Paul is forced to stay until then. Thanks, David.


Gilbert would effectively have participated in sending another star to a bigger media market, but that did not give him the right to incite chaos. Stern, then, legislated Gilbert’s madness. The hard-line bosses whined all summer about how the previous agreement, signed willingly and considered very favorable to owners, had created an insufferable Hades for the league’s little guys.

“We want a system that allows all 30 teams to compete for a championship,” Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement tweeted last month.

Those words never sounded more hollow than Thursday when Gilbert, Robert Sarver and other cranky owners watched three front offices finish a deal that urinated on their faux decree.

To keep up appearances and avoid eating moldy crow, Stern conspired with Gilbert to create the sport’s latest disaster piece. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has to be thinking, “We ended the work stoppage for this crap?”

Fans can hate the Lakers for always finding a way to steal the show with Buss at the helm. The team disappeared in the 1990s only because his cost-cutting replacement was not proactive.  Fans can detest L.A. for that, but they must understand the facts.

Mitch Kupchak assembled attractive assets worthy of Demps and Morey’s consideration. He executed a legal trade to get Gasol that vaulted the Lakers to three straight NBA Finals. He re-signed Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum to contracts that would make them valuable trade pieces down the line.

Get over it, Dan.

Stern must go now and take the fall for the devastation he caused. The lockout wiped out the traditional preseason and 16 games because Stern handed over his authority when he needed to wield it most. He salvaged a campaign that will open Christmas Day, but the money at stake did more to inspire labor peace than the bumbling commissioner.

He talks so tough, the way an exceptional, sans-pareil former attorney should. His actions, though, warrant a pink slip taller than Dwight Howard.

Getting Gilbert, Donald Sterling and several other billionaires gone would do more to improve professional basketball than new CBA regulations, but alas, they pay, they stay.

Stern can no longer hide behind the same protection.

Kupchak cannot bully his Orlando counterpart Otis Smith into swapping Howard, the NBA’s best center, for Andrew Bynum. That damaging deal was not inevitable. I will not cite any sources on that because logic will do the trick. Smith has other options. Orlando Sentinel reporter Josh Robbins wrote that Howard wants a trade to New Jersey. ESPN first reported that scenario.

The Magic, as Robbins noted in a blog post, could call Howard’s bluff.

A few things need to occur alongside Stern’s dismissal. The NBA must find a buyer for the Hornets or relocate the team. This whole conflict of interest thing does not work. It then must renege on its Thursday decision and allow this trade to happen.

The owners’ grand puppeteer almost threw his popular league off a cliff. Stern followed up that disgraceful act by sabotaging Demps promising career with a no-win situation. This will yield low-ball offers for Paul, seething season-ticket holders and a PR nightmare.

It hurts Houston and L.A. What does Mike Brown tell Gasol and Odom today as camp starts, if they attend? They were heartbroken. What does Kevin McHale say to Martin, Scola and Dragic?

Gee, sorry guys. We, uh, goofed up there. Uh, we’re sorry.

No filler words or apologies can repair the leaking roofs that will soon flood the Toyota Center and New Orleans Arena. The Staples Center will, at least, take on water.

Gilbert may not deserve all of the scorn that will assault him. Some of his fellow owners share in the blame. His visibility, though, makes him an easy, justifiable target.

The league stalled thanks to a five-month labor dispute. This cancelled trade emits the same fishy aroma. Stern wisecracked in a Dallas All-Star game press conference two years ago that anyone calling the upcoming work stoppage “bologna” (or baloney) had the wrong meat. They damn sure do not have the wrong seafood.

Paul should have congregated with his new coach and teammates at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo, California. Gasol and Morey should have answered questions at a Toyota Center press conference no later than this weekend. Martin, Scola and Dragic should have touched down in the land of gumbo and Bourbon Street.

Instead, Stern decided to hijack a reasonable trade and massacre it. For that, he deserves expulsion. No more clinging to the rise of Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Michael Jordan via his marketing or the game’s globalization. A year’s worth of mistakes and blunders renders those accomplishments meaningless until he resigns.

The NBA needs Stern to quit when he’s only behind by 20 for plenty of legitimate basketball reasons.

A season almost perished because of his sagging, inadequate leadership. How much more must die at the hands of a proud but infiltrated man no longer fit to run a $4 billion business?

A legendary figurehead has not performed his primary duty—ensuring the sport’s health and profitability—in his sport’s darkest hour since a 1999 lockout and a 2004 brawl in Detroit.

A hero has turned himself into an unnecessary villain. Stern crossed an inexcusable line Thursday night. The lone acceptable recourse is clear: block him. If he will not do it himself, Alexander and Buss should not waste any time in commencing a necessary mutiny.

Stern has screwed up enough.


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