On the eve of the sport's formal re-opening for business after a five-month lockout, NBA commissioner David Stern sent shockwaves throughout the league Thursday night by nixing the league-owned New Orleans Hornets' plans to trade guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Within an hour of the Hornets striking an agreement in principle with the Lakers and Houston Rockets on a three-team trade that would have landed Paul in the same backcourt as Kobe Bryant, Stern informed the Hornets that they couldn't make the trade, stunning team officials who had been working around-the-clock for days in hopes of bringing an end to the Paul saga before the season officially started.
Amid a stream of reports that angry owners were demanding the trade be vetoed, on the same day those owners had gathered in New York to ratify a new labor pact purportedly designed to foster competitive balance and prevent small-market teams from being raided for their stars, league officials tried to dispute claims of a revolt by insisting that the decision was Stern's.
"It's not true that the owners killed the deal," NBA spokesman Mike Bass said. "The deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons."
Yet in an email to Stern obtained by Yahoo! Sports and The New York Times, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert called the proposed deal "a travesty" and urged Stern to put the deal to a vote of "the 29 owners of the Hornets," referring to the rest of the league's teams.