The woes of David Stern

By Tyler Galicia

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Courtesy of the LA Times

For a few short hours, Chris Paul was a Laker, and the Hornets looked like a better team for the short term. Then David Stern stepped in. Despite all teams having agreed upon a blockbuster deal, Stern used his powers to veto the trade. This was the first time the NBA had ever seen a commissioner do this.

At the time of the trade, it looked like a solid win-win for all involved parties. The Lakers were getting the true point guard that they’ve lacked for years in Chris Paul, the Rockets were receiving four time All-Star Pau Gasol, and the New Orleans Hornets were getting back three quality players in Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and reigning sixth man of the year, Lamar Odom. They’d also be getting a very respectable backup point guard in Goran Dragic, and a 2012 first round pick. The trade was agreed upon in principle, and the only thing the league had to do was give it their stamp of approval. That didn’t happen. Instead, David Stern heard the ire from a handful of owners, including the Cavaliers Dan Gilbert, who pitches more fits than a 6 year old who got their candy taken away from them. He ultimately decided the trade wasn’t appropriate for “basketball reasons” and elected to veto it, sending Paul back to the league-owned Hornets. It’s easy to surmise that had the Hornets not been in limbo, and had an actual, fully functional, majority owner, that this trade would have gone through seamlessly.

Six days later, Paul finally wound up in Los Angeles, but with the Clippers this time rather than the Lakers. Stern decided that he liked the offer he received from the Clippers better than what the Rockets and Lakers had to offer. The Hornets ended up receiving a budding star in Eric Gordon, an expiring contract in Chris Kaman, and an unproven commodity in Al-Farouq Aminu. They also received a first-round draft pick from the Clips which was obtained via the Minnesota Timberwolves, meaning whichever pick the Wolves would’ve originally had in the draft depending on their finish in the standings, would now belong to the Hornets. Stern decided this was the better deal because the Hornets were getting young talent in return, rather than players who had proven ability, but may be a little older. The Lakers, having lost out on Paul, also promptly lost their own star in Odom. Having been so hurt from the original deal, he felt he couldn’t return to LA and requested to be traded. He was then sent packing to the defending champion Mavericks for a box of cookies disguised as an $8.9M trade exception.

And here we are now, the All-Star break approaching and the Hornets sitting at a paltry 8-25 which is good for the second worst record in the league. Eric Gordon, the centerpiece of the trade, has played a grand total of two of those games and has sat out injured the rest. He’s also a restricted free agent after the season, and it’ll be hard for the Hornets to offer him a long-term extension after barely seeing him play. Aminu has been a total bust and is averaging a mere 5 points per game. Kaman has been the talks of additional trades, and is likely to be shipped out again before the trade deadline. As for that highly coveted first round pick, the T’Wolves have had a surprisingly good season and continue to float right around the .500 mark. If that keeps up, it might end up being a late-lottery pick, rather than a top 5 pick as predicted.

It’s now looking more and more like the Clippers got their new superstar point-guard for next to nothing, while they’re thriving and looking like a real contender in the western conference.

So there you have it, Mr. Stern. Are you happy? Immediately after returning from an arduous league lockout, which placed an ugly black eye on your league, you go ahead and do something equally as pervasive and make many of your fans and employees ask, “what was that man thinking?” It’s unfortunate to see how this decision has panned out, but you had it coming. The power of being a de facto owner got to your head, and now you’re left looking foolish with a team that no one wants to buy, even less than they did before.

Tyler Galicia can be reached for comment at [email protected]