With only a few hours since the ratification of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Twitter exploded with rumors that Hornets PG Chris Paul was on the verge of being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers – at first glance for PF Pau Gasol and C Andrew Bynum, then it was corrected to be Pau Gasol and SF/PF Lamar Odom. More rumors quickly surfaced that the trade would, in effect be, Chris Paul and C Emeka Okafor to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets and Lamar Odom, SG Kevin Martin, PF Luis Scola, PG Goran Dragic and New York’s 2012 first round draft pic via Houston.
And I wasn’t necessarily thrilled with the deal. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it. But the Hornets were giving up the best player and not even getting the 2nd best player (Gasol) back. I didn’t like that we were getting Odom and Scola (guys in their 30s) and the Knicks’ pick would not be a lottery pick – not unless they found a magical way to choke with Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler all around. But ultimately, the deal was about getting quality and quantity and, most importantly, flexibility. Odom and Scola could be moved later on for more pieces. The Hornets would have the chance to rebuild as Dell Demps and Monty Williams saw fit.
And then the rumors started that the deal hit a snag. Then the snag became a problem. Then the problem was reported to be the other NBA owners angry with All-Star Paul being shipped to one of the key NBA franchises and allowing them to continue being one of the dominant pack of NBA teams – along with the Bulls, the Heat and the Knicks – in attracting the very best players. Not soon after, the news of “Trade has been blocked. Chris Paul will play the season in New Orleans.”
I don’t want to trade Chris Paul away. He’s a great talent, a fierce competitor and the best player this team has had since it moved to New Orleans. If the Saints can become Super Bowl champions, why not the Hornets? Superstars have greater influence in a game where only 5 players take the court at one time. The team has only a few contracts in their books and only two (Emeka Okafor’s and Trevor Ariza’s) are large. Dell Demps could very well turn to Paul and say “Tell me who you want to play with you here in New Orleans and I’ll make it happen.”
Obviously, other factors are at play here. The desire to play in a major market and make millions more through marketing deals (both nationally and internationally). The desire to play with friends. The desire to not fall back when you see your friends team up to carve an easier path to a championship.
But I’m okay with it. Players come and players go. That’s life. Hell, I just went through it twice this year: Reggie Bush leaving the Saints and Cesc Fabregas leaving Arsenal. Guess what? Both teams are still around and doing fine. Moving Chris Paul wouldn’t be the end of the world or the end of the Hornets.
But to block the trade means that the Hornets can’t begin their rebuilding process in 2011-12 and on their terms. It means that they must now either accept a lower offer from a team that won’t have a shot in hell of keeping Chris Paul next offseason – because you can bet your ass he’s going to hit the free agency market now – or play him out and then watch as he fulfills his contractual obligations and hits the road at the end of the year, with nothing to show for him but disappointment.
How does that help this Hornets team at all? How does it help to piss off the superstar in town who now everyone knows wants out? How can you attract fans – or an ownership group – with this kind of stupidity? The kind of stupidity, mind you, that is more akin to fantasy sports than real sports.
Yesterday, the Hornets proudly announced record number of season tickets – over 10,000. That’s New York/Los Angeles Lakers-levels. How many of those fans are thinking that they may not want those tickets anymore after this deal?
The point of a league commissioner is to have an impartial arbiter who ensures the best interests of the sport are protected. How does this mess help the league again?