After all the rumors, trades and near-trades, yesterday did indeed turn out to be one of the craziest basketball days in years—except not in the way anyone expected. After the three-team Chris Paul trade was opposed by owners and blocked by NBA Commissioner David Stern, all bets are off as to what will happen next. But the latest report is that Orlando Magic star Dwight Howard wants to be traded to the soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets. And if it does happen, NYC can look forward to a truly worthy and competitive inner-city rivalry next year.
But to return to the Paul debacle first: the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets all agreed on a multi-player trade which would have sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and Lamar Odom (among others) to the Hornets. As ESPN experts noted, this was essentially as fair and balanced a trade as one can get when dealing with a superstar on Paul's level. But after owners complained of competitive unfairness—Cavs owner Dan Gilbert called it a "travesty" and asked Stern, "When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?"—Stern made the extraordinary move of nullifying the trade.
The New Orleans Hornets are currently owned by the whole league, but Stern had claimed that wouldn't affect the team from making their own decisions on trades. An insider explained Stern's rationale to Yahoo Sports: "In the end, David didn’t like that the players were dictating where they wanted to go, like Carmelo had, and he wasn’t going to let Chris Paul dictate where he wanted to go.” The three teams involved in the trade are now appealing to the league for Stern to reverse the decision, but the damage may already be done. One NBA executive laced into Stern:
We were all told by the league he was a tradeable player, and now they’re saying that [Hornets general manager Dell Demps] doesn’t have the authority to make the trade? Now they’re saying that Dell is an idiot, that he can’t do his job. [Expletive] this whole thing. David’s drunk on power, and he doesn’t give a [expletive] about the players, and he doesn’t give a [expletive] about the hundreds of hours the teams put in to make that deal.
To me, this makes the league feel like it’s rigged, that Stern just does whatever Stern wants to do. He’s messed up the competitive balance of this league a lot worse by killing the deal because you’ve completely destroyed the planning that New Orleans and Houston did and left them in shambles over this. I’ve never been so discouraged about this league, never so down.
As Bill Simmons points out, it isn't just New Orleans and Houston who were affected by the decision to kill the deal.
Whatever happens, the season has been irrevocably tainted — we just watched FIVE teams have their seasons screwed up by this debacle. Houston's three-year plan just went up in smoke; now the Rockets have to make up with their two best players. (Good luck with that.) The Lakers need to determine if their relationship with the notoriously sensitive Gasol and the even more notoriously sensitive Odom is salvageable; and if it's not, what then? The Hornets are just plain screwed. It's a basketball catastrophe for them. As for the Celtics, Pinocchio Ainge's ill-fated pursuit of Paul ruined the team's relationship with Rajon Rondo, only its best young player. Even the Knicks got screwed — supposedly they closed the deal with Tyson Chandler yesterday, never expecting Paul to become available this summer (and now they can't chase him).
The total tally: Five teams were screwed by one cowardly decision.
Odom was so distraught by the news, he reportedly broke into tears after learning of the trade, speculating on a radio show as to why he wasn't wanted in LA anymore: “Maybe I rubbed people the wrong way. Maybe it was doing the [reality] show.” Hopefully the Knicks haven't alienated Amare Stoudemire by floating him at one point as a trade chip for Paul.
According to the Times, the Knicks' four-year, $58 million deal with Tyson Chandler will be done today, with Chauncey Billups waived under the new amnesty clause (the Heat are reportedly interested), and Ronny Turiaf traded somewhere else. According to Bleacher Report, signing Chandler will also lure Grant Hill to NYC.