David Stern: Can Lakers' Fans Trust Him Ever Again?

Joe BarnathanCorrespondent IDecember 10, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 04:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks at a press conference after NBA labor negotiations at The Westin Times Square on October 4, 2011 in New York City. Stern announced the NBA has canceled the remainder of the preseason and will cancel the first two weeks of the regular season if there is no labor agreement by Monday.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

What has easily become one of the craziest sports stories in recent memory has not only been confusing but in many ways damaging to Stern and the NBA as a governing body.

Let me first start by explaining why this isn’t just “an owner nixing a trade” which has become the company line.

The NBA is a governing body. This means that they are in charge of enforcing rules and regulations as well as running things like the playoffs, the all-star game and the draft.

It is not the NBA’s job to influence any particular team’s personnel decisions. Ever.

When the NBA purchased the Hornets, it wasn’t because they thought it would be a good investment or that they could help turn the team around. They were placeholders. Their sole purpose was to provide the funds to keep the team afloat until a new owner came in. 

Here is the danger with allowing the NBA to make personnel decisions. Let’s say, hypothetically, there is another team that loses its owner. What would the NBA do then? Could they help bail out that team the same way they did with the Hornets?

Now that they’ve demonstrated that they have the power to make personnel decisions, no they cannot.

Had the NBA maintained their stance that they were simply monetary placeholders, they could have easily helped out another team that was struggling. However, by compromising that agreement and vetoing this trade, they limit what they can do as a governing body. 

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Are we now supposed to look at the NBA and David Stern as just another owner?

What if this was the other way around? What would happen if David Stern were incapable of doing his job and stepped down?

Would everyone be ok with appointing one of the other 29 owners as commissioner? Are we comfortable with having Mark Cuban or Dan Gilbert as the head of the NBA while they're still running their team? That is what’s called a conflict of interest.

Quite frankly, you cannot be the commissioner of the league and try to affect the personnel of a team. It’s illegal and Chris Paul would have a very easy lawsuit.

Now, we haven’t even discussed the fact that, essentially, David Stern is trying to control which players go where, and is trying to prevent Chris Paul from coming to the Lakers.

What kind of message does that send to Lakers’ fans? How about the Lakers organization? How can David Stern claim to be treating every team fairly?

This morning, the Celtics agreed to a sign-and-trade with the Hornets to receive David West.

Keep in mind that David West, while not a superstar like Paul, is a two time all-star and was considered one of the most coveted free agents this off season.

Is trading David West to the Celtics for scraps and cap space really the best “basketball decision”? David Stern doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with that deal despite the fact that the Celtics seem to be giving up only Jermaine O’Neal.

Last time I checked Jermaine O’Neal was not the youth and draft pick that David Stern apparently seems to covet.

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 26:  Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets reacts late in the fourth quarter while taking on the Los Angeles Lakers in Game Five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals in the 2011 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2011 at Staples Cente
Harry How/Getty Images

The fact is that Stern has not only stepped over the line, but has demonstrated that he is going to do all he can to prevent the Lakers from trying to improve their team. 

Even if Stern approves a deal that sends Paul to the Lakers now, it will only be because of the immense backlash he has gotten from everyone that his initial decision was flat out wrong. 

In the end, Stern can only hope that come Christmas, everyone will forget that he so blatantly abused his powers as commissioner.

While many people may move on from this incident, there is no doubt that, going forward, any time there is a questionable moment that doesn’t go the Lakers way, people will wonder if Stern is abusing his powers once again. 

Whether or not that is a fair assumption is irrelevant. Stern has broken the trust of Lakers’ fans and basketball fans everywhere.

He is going to have to do a lot of work if he plans to regain that trust.

Allowing Paul to go to the Lakers is a good start.


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