Thoughts (and misgivings) about the Chris Paul deal

December, 15, 2011
12/15/11
2:00
PM PT
Kamenetzky By Andy Kamenetzky
ESPNLosAngeles.com
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Finally, at long last, the Chris Paul circus has mercifully packed it's league-owned bags and left town. After much hulabaloo, the Clippers and the Hornets/David Stern reached terms to find CP3 a new home. He, along with two future second round draft picks, will run the point for L.A.'s "other team," while Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and an unprotected pick from Minnesota (likely high) belong to New Orleans. With that settled, we can focus less on the rumor mill and more on our daily lives. (At least until the Magic inevitably start listening to offers for Dwight Howard again.)

Brian already broke down this deal's immediate impact on the Lakers, so I won't rehash that angle, beyond saying the that they should avoid moves designed to steal back some of the Clippers' thunder. That's a recipe for regret. Yes, the Clippers have seized the spotlight, but the Lakers have enjoyed more shine than just about any team in league history. They can afford to surrender some of that light. Worry about improving the roster as you would any season, not sports talk show hosts asking if this is now a "Clipper town." Trust me, we're not there yet.

As for the actual trade itself, I have a fair amount of misgivings.

For starters, the abuse and misappropriation of power on Stern's part, plus the glaring evidence of his inability to avoid a conflict of interest as the Hornets "owner" and league commissioner. Though he explained that he rejected the Lakers-Hornets-Rockets deal for "basketball reasons," the move appeared to have been a reaction to complaints from the likes of small-market owners like Dan Gilbert, and because of his apparent distaste for any transaction where a superstar leaves a small market for his first-choice larger-market franchise. That the deal was actually fair for the Hornets, and that his actions cut off G.M. Dell Demps at the knees was apparently irrelevant.

From there, he ultimately forced the Clippers to surrender more for Paul than typically expected, even for a superstar. Why? Because it's impossible to negotiate in earnest with an "owner" who's also holding the league approval rubber stamp and has a vested interest in New Orleans basketball. Anybody, including Stern, who claims this was standard operations is delusional. The Hornets landed a fantastic haul because they were able to capitalize on a messy, untenable ownership situation. And that's just not right.

I'm all for the Hornets getting a good deal to safeguard against Paul's departure, but not through advantages the other 29 teams can't possibly have.



Also, two major points of contention during the lockout were the notion of regional competitive balance, and preventing stars from forcing themselves out of small market franchises to join the big city. Maybe I'm missing something, but isn't that the exact same scenario we entered? Paul may not have joined his first-choice franchise, but he still landed in a premiere market. The Clippers may be historically downtrodden, but that's because of their owner, not because of geography. In reality, this deal helped put another large market team on the map, and perhaps even saved Donald Sterling from himself.

In any event, what's theoretically supposed to be "discouraged" now by the new CBA is beyond me.

And finally, an element I feel has gone horribly overlooked is the way Chris Paul was treated throughout this process. In my opinion, the guy was reduced to a piece of meat, a pawn in Stern's quest to prove a point and exert power, and basically an afterthought in his own trade. And he deserves much, much better.

This is a player who's served as a terrific face for the NBA. He's never caused the Hornets any problems on or off the court. He's been a positive, active force in the New Orleans community. He never provided any false hope to the Hornets about staying. When he decided he wanted to change teams, he let it be known quietly, without public demands, tossing ownership under the bus, or behaving unprofessionally. He didn't demand everyone kiss his ring like LeBron or push "New York or bust" like Carmelo.

To make use of the cliches, he's "said and done all the right things."

There should be equity built from this exemplary combination of character and talent, and instead Paul has been painted by the league as problematic for simply having a preference as to where he'd go next. I realize sports are a business, players typically have no control over their next destination in a trade, and that's often just life. Suck it up and take it. But they are also spared being part of any agenda, too. Paul may have landed on his feet, but that doesn't excuse being so callously jerked around over the last week.

Don't get me wrong. I'm actually happy for the Clippers and, assuming Paul is happy, for him as well. But this drama, which reflected poorly on the NBA, has left a pretty bad taste in my mouth.

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