I wasn't originally going to say anything about Chris Paul and the NBA. It seemed like everyone else was covering it enough to say what needed to be said. But the more I hear about it....and it's back in the headlines again with the LAC trade collapsing....the more something in particular bothered me.
Why were the owners so insistent it would have been a competitive imbalance?
David Stern cashed in on a technicality, pointing out that the league 'owns' the Hornets and can therefore cancel any trade it want for any reason it wants, just like any other owner. But the reasoning just doesn't add up. Stern was accused of being cowardly and manipulative, but as far as I'm concerned, what he was more than anything was just plain illogical.
There were a lot of parts and pieces going into the original deal but the core idea of it was this: Chris Paul would go to Los Angeles, Pau Gasol would go to Houston, and Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic, and a first round pick would go to New Orleans.
Let's look at that for a moment.
The Hornets are giving up the best point guard in the NBA. That hurts. But in return, they're getting an entire starting lineup. Kevin Martin is a really good player. Luis Scola is a really good player. Lamar Odom is (when motivated...) a really good player. Goran Dragic has potential to be a really good player. And they're getting a draft pick on top of it. Is someone really going to tell me the Hornets are getting a bad deal in a 4-1 trade like this? They just lost David West. They have 5 players on their roster. If anything, they should have been ecstatic to get this sort of offer.
Let's also look at the Lakers' perspective.
Ok yes. They have one of the league's best shooting guards (sorry Kobe. I just can't rate ya ahead of Wade anymore) and would have been pairing him with the league's best point guard. That's a big deal. But take into consideration what they were going to give up. Arguably the two most skilled big men in the NBA. Had the trade gone through, they would have had a core of Kobe, Paul and Andrew Bynum. Really? Is that really any more 'unfair' than Kobe, Gasol and Bynum? Or Paul, Gordon and Griffin? Or LeBron, Wade and Bosh?
Now Odom is gone anyway. Traded by the big market team for a draft pick and cap space. The Lakers sure don't care about the bottom line. Kind of makes you wonder what would have happened if Odom had gone back to Miami.
Would starting Paul at point guard be worth having to start Caracter at power forward? Does Chris Paul alone make the Lakers better than Gasol and Odom combined?
Once upon a time there was this Lakers team with Kobe and Shaq. Then it was Kobe, Shaq and Glen Rice. Then it was Kobe, Shaq, Gary Payton and Karl Malone. Before that they had Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
I don't remember anybody complaining about "competitive imbalance" with those Laker teams. Sure there was jealousy and the feeling of "oh my God, how do we beat these guys?", but I'm pretty sure no one said "the league should make it illegal" for the Lakers to have the best shooting guard, the best pure shooter, and the best center all on the same roster.
Instead, teams got down to business. They put together rosters like Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby. Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Billups, Prince, Rip and the Wallace Bros.
Larry Bird, Kevin McHale and Robert Parish.
They didn't complain about the Lakers. They put together squads of their own and gave LA a run for it's money. That Shaq and Kobe team got beat a lot before they got their first title. Twice by Stockton and Malone, then by San Antonio. And even after they got that first ring, they were still going back and forth with the Spurs and Kings. Tim Duncan was not afraid of the Lakers. Kevin Garnett was not afraid of the Lakers. Chris Webber.....even though he never got past them in the playoffs...was not afraid of the Lakers. Those guys didn't complain. They went out and took care of business.
I say this in all honesty: any owner who is afraid to compete with Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Andrew Bynum should just sell his team now and call it quits.
I'm pretty damn sure the Heat would not be afraid of that team. I'm pretty damn sure the Thunder would not be afraid of that team. The Celtics. The Bulls. Hell, even the Clippers would look at that and probably think "that doesn't seem so tough".
I mean, the Clippers are living proof that you don't need any magic to put together a winning team. C'mon. What is all this about "oh, it only works for the big markets", "oh, it only works for the top franchises". These are the Clippers we're talking about here. The laughinstock of professional sports. They didn't do anything unprecedented. They didn't move out of LA to escape the Lakers' shadow. They didn't spend absurd amounts of money to buy a good roster. They drafted smart and got lucky with Blake Griffin. Just like the Bulls, Thunder and Magic got lucky with Rose, Durant and Howard.
And now the Clippers have the best point guard in the NBA practically begging to play for them. The Clippers. Think about that. Why is that? It sure as hell isn't because the Clippers have a history of fame and fortune.
If there's one thing this saga has taught me, it's that NBA owners and GMs are still collectively stuck in the old way of looking at things. Statistically, Chris Paul isn't better than Pau Gasol all by his lonesome, much less Gasol and Odom combined. Yet all these league executives see the name "Chris Paul" and "Lakers" and instantly cry "it isn't fair!" Oh no, the LA will have a dynasty and the Hornets will be left with nothing! Nevermind that the Lakers are giving up two supremely talented big men. Nevermind that the Hornets are getting a 4-for-1 deal with all four being very good players. Ok sure, Houston seems to come up short, but hey. It's by their own action. They have Kevin McHale now, it's to be expected.
No, the problem isn't at all 'competitive balance'. These teams are just too afraid to have that much
talent production name recognition in one city. So they jump on the league to make a dictatorial decision to make their lives easier.
What they're really afraid of is doing their damn jobs.