Here's the situation: A superstar is ready to leave his current team at the end of the season. The front office wants to get something in return for him. They pursue a trade. Everything sounds normal so far.
Here's the plot twist: The team has 29 owners—all of whom are majority shareholders in competing franchises.
Such absurdities could only happen in the NBA. Since the New Orleans Hornets are league-owned, it's becoming apparent that their ownership group (read "the other NBA owners") does not want to help one of their rivals get stronger by sending them Chris Paul.
Really, though, how can you blame them? It's a blatant conflict of interest. Why would one of the other owners want to send Chris Paul to a team that could potentially beat them in the playoffs?
The league's stance is quickly morphing from "general manager Dell Demps can make any trade he sees fit" to "the only way Paul leaves the Big Easy is if his new team gives up enough pieces so they won't be an immediate threat with him."
I'm sure owners around the league would have loved to veto the 2007 trade that sent Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies to Lakers. The problem was that the league didn't have a stake in Memphis.
This is why the Lakers went from Kobe Bryant's scoring spectacle to back-to-back champions. It is also why it is becoming increasingly unlikely that Paul will be dealt before the season starts.
The NBA was deceitful. It originally claimed that Dell Demps was empowered to move the discontented superstar. Opposing general managers negotiated with him under the assumption that he had the authority to make any trade that he thought would benefit his team.
Blocking the aforementioned three way trade has already damaged the Lakers and Rockets. Los Angeles already sent an unhappy Lamar Odom to Dallas for next to nothing. Pau Gasol, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Goran Dragic are probably also insulted.
If the NBA was honest from the beginning, it is pretty much a given that the trade never would have been announced before league approval.
Tthis is one of the reasons life sucks. Players shouldn't get so emotional about trade talk. It's part of the game. Yet, plenty of guys will inevitably get down when their name comes up in rumors.)
So while front offices should be free to pursue whatever deals they wish, they have to use discretion when exploring moving certain guys. It's a classic "this is stupid, but fighting it isn't worth it" situation.
Oh, and by the way, Chris Paul is better than Pau Gasol, so if he takes it that hard, he's kind of delusional. Of course, if the NBA did what it promised and let Demps negotiate, he would be in New Orleans now and his emotional well-being would not be the Lakers' problem.
The Clippers took advantage of the Lakers pulling out of the trade and sought to restructure their offer for Paul.
Again, the league wants to ensure that Paul's new team is severely crippled by their acquisition of him.
This disaster could have been avoided had the NBA not purchased the team from George Shinn.
It could have been avoided had the NBA been up front about what authority Dell Demps did and did not have.
The longer the Chris Paul situation plays out, the worse the league will look. It's sad because after a lengthy lockout the league need all the goodwill it can get. This isn't how to go about it.