Chris Paul Trade: Overturning Deal Punishes Well Run Teams, Not Big Market Teams

Thomas Galicia@thomasgaliciaFeatured Columnist IVDecember 9, 2011

NEW ORLEANS, LA - APRIL 28:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets walks off the court after a 98-80 loss as Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers smiles after winning the series in Game Six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 28, 2011 at New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, Louisiana.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Nothing infuriates me more than seeing people who try to do the right thing stopped from doing just that. 

Los Angeles Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has made his career off of doing the right thing for his team; putting them in the best position to win.

Despite it not being very popular at the time, he had to make a choice in 2004 between trading Shaq and re-signing Kobe, or keeping Shaq and giving him the extension he wanted and letting Kobe go via free agency. 

Kupchak decided to trade Shaq to the Heat and in exchange received a package that included Caron Butler, Brian Grant (who was salary cap filler) and Lamar Odom. 

Three years later, Kobe Bryant wanted to be traded. Rumors swirled that Kobe was on his way to Chicago, and Kobe was even booed on opening night of that season. Kupchak stood his ground, and not only didn't sign Kobe, but wound up trading Kwame Brown (who was acquired in exchange for Caron Butler two years prior), and various other pieces to Memphis in exchange for Pau Gasol. 

He made the team better, to the tune of three Finals appearances and two NBA championships. Not because they outspent other teams (although they did spend money to keep these players), but because he made the right decision on Kobe and took advantage of an opportunity to make his team better presented to him by the Grizzlies

New Orleans Hornets GM Dell Demps was trying to do the right thing for his team. He knew that Chris Paul wasn't interested in staying with the Hornets. He knew that Chris Paul would only sign with the Knicks or Lakers. Despite working for a franchise owned by the NBA, he was given the responsibility of running the team with the NBA telling him that they would be hands off. 

Video Play Button
Videos you might like

So Demps looked at the NBA landscape, and saw that the Knicks would likely lack the pieces to even get a third team involved to get what he felt was fair market value for his superstar. However, he saw that the Lakers were more than willing to make such a deal. 

The teams found a trade partner in Houston, who would benefit from getting Pau Gasol and cap room to sign Nene, and a deal was struck between the three. Chris Paul was going to be a Los Angeles Laker, and the New Orleans Hornets would get close to fair market value for him by acquiring Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Lamar Odom. New Orleans would've also received the Knicks' 2012 first round pick, which is held by the Houston Rockets

Both teams should've been commended for making a trade that helped out both, especially the Lakers, who would've actually been able to save money (and possibly bring on Dwight Howard) in the process. 

But instead, the trade was blocked by David Stern for what was termed "basketball reasons." 

Let me assure you that there's no "basketball reason" why this trade should've been junked. 

The Lakers get the premier point guard in the NBA and enough cap space to make a run at the premier center in the NBA to go along with Kobe Bryant. It's pretty easy to find NBA players willing to join a nucleus that good, just ask Shane Battier, who announced earlier on Thursday that he was signing with the Miami Heat

New Orleans would've been stuck in neutral, however, they would've had pieces to acquire future draft picks to rebuild the team. As the Cleveland Cavaliers could tell you, it's better to get something for a superstar who would've left then to get nothing. 

So what if I lost the trust of the players and fans? So what if I killed pro basketball in New Orleans? At least they know I'm the one in charge!
So what if I lost the trust of the players and fans? So what if I killed pro basketball in New Orleans? At least they know I'm the one in charge!Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Rewind, let's go back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, more specifically their owner, Dan Gilbert. 

You might remember Gilbert for his comical rant after LeBron left Cleveland. The rant helped to justify the hate towards LeBron (which was unfairly deserved) while at the same time made Gilbert a hero to the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

But now, more than a year later, we find this e-mail:



It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard. (They would also get a large trade exception that would help them improve their team and/or eventually trade for Howard.) When the Lakers got Pau Gasol (at the time considered an extremely lopsided trade) they took on tens of millions in additional salary and luxury tax and they gave up a number of prospects (one in Marc Gasol who may become a max-salary player).


Gilbert wrote that e-mail to David Stern, the e-mail got leaked, yet Stern has the nerve to say that the owners didn't kill the deal. The e-mail says otherwise. 

All Dan Gilbert did though was assure that the same thing that happened to his team and his fanbase would happen to another team and their fanbase, only instead of just making the Hornets a bad team, it would likely kill professional basketball in New Orleans. What potential owner would purchase this team with the intent of keeping it in New Orleans now? 

And I know this isn't a very popular view outside of Los Angeles, but as someone who's not a Lakers fan, I feel I can say this: so what if the Lakers put themselves in a better position by acquiring a superstar player and saving money while doing it? What's wrong with it? They did it in a legal and ethical way. That's called good business, only communists would say that it's unfair. 

Would Gilbert find this unfair if his team were to benefit from all of this? I doubt it. Sorry but that's the very definition of a hypocrite. 

Congratulations, Mr. Gilbert, you've managed to justify "The Decision" for many people who just 24 hours ago still hated it!

Using Gilbert's logic, especially with how the deal would save the Lakers $21 million in revenue sharing, I suggest that Dan Gilbert pay higher taxes. If he wants the Lakers to do it, then what makes him so special? (Note, this is the first and last time I'll ever suggest higher taxes on anyone.)

All this did was punish three franchises who were only attempting to do what was best for their teams considering the situation. The message meant to be sent was that the players couldn't dictate where they wanted to go, when in reality it helps teams a whole lot more for players to ask for a trade to a certain team during a contract year than for the team to just let the player walk away and receive nothing in return. 

Should I attempt to improve my team, or prevent other teams from improving? You know what? Working on rebuilding my team is overrated, I'd rather keep other teams from improving, even if the team improving could help keep LeBron from winning a title, which is my real objective anyways.
Should I attempt to improve my team, or prevent other teams from improving? You know what? Working on rebuilding my team is overrated, I'd rather keep other teams from improving, even if the team improving could help keep LeBron from winning a title, which is my real objective anyways.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

This also sends a message to all teams: don't even think about making any deals. We can shoot them down if we feel it's unfair to either side. 

Thanks to cancelling this deal, you will see more chaos. There's the possibility of Chris Paul filing legal action against the NBA for blocking the trade, many players refusing to show up for training camp. 

I'm not saying this is going to happen, but could we even see a player strike? They would be justified in doing this. 

Teams shouldn't be punished for improving just to appease owners who have proven to be incompetent. Teams should always seek to improve, whether they're the Lakers, Hornets, Heat, Knicks or Cavaliers. 

And if you're not willing to put in the work to do it, and instead stop other teams from doing it, then do the community and fans you claim to care for and the league a favor and sell the team to someone who will know what they're doing. 

slash iconYour sports. Delivered.

Enjoy our content? Join our newsletter to get the latest in sports news delivered straight to your inbox!