NBA

Protected? No, Hornets got shafted

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Mark Kriegel

Mark Kriegel is the national columnist for FOXSports.com. He is the author of two New York Times best sellers, Namath: A Biography and Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich, which Sports Illustrated called "the best sports biography of the year."

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One can barely imagine the relief felt this morning by the New Orleans Hornets and their fans, assuming, that is, that they still have any.


The perennially star-crossed Hornets were set to trade Chris Paul — who is certain to leave them anyway — for Lamar Odom; a legitimate 20-plus a game scorer (Kevin Martin); a power forward who’s good for 18 points and eight rebounds a game (Luis Scola); a point guard (Goran Dragic), and, oh, yes, a first-round pick. David Stern saved them from that.

Worse still, I was all set to write that the Los Angeles Lakers had finally found the lousy end of a deal. Fortunately, the commissioner, in his infinite wisdom, disabused me of that idea.

Then again, I’d be remiss to give Stern all the credit. He had help from his owners, guys like the Mavericks’ Mark Cuban and the Cavaliers’ Dan Gilbert. It’s worth mentioning here that Yahoo Sports came up with an email from Gilbert to Stern and Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver calling the proposed deal for Paul “a travesty.”

“I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen,” wrote Gilbert, who went on to ask, “When will we just change the name of 25 of the 30 teams to the Washington Generals?”

Well, at least Gilbert got something right. Also, it’s good to know that Stern is so receptive to the counsel of a man who’s done the impossible. Gilbert is the best thing that ever happened to LeBron James. He almost allows you to see things from the King’s point of view. I mean, if you had a choice, would you put up with Gilbert?

Not long after Stern received the email, a league spokesman said: “It’s not true that the owners killed the deal. The deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.”

Basketball reasons? Really? Was the league truly that concerned about the Los Angeles Lakers, winners of consecutive championships in 2009 and '10?

This is the same franchise, mind you, that incurred league-wide ire by getting Pau Gasol in return for Kwame Brown, Javaris Crittenton and a couple of first-rounders. Strange, though, that Gilbert is a small-market owner. Aren’t the Hornets a small-market franchise?

And what of Houston? The Rockets aren’t anyone’s idea of a big-market team. Still, they didn’t seem too upset about obtaining the aforementioned Gasol in Thursday's aborted deal. Did David Stern presume that these teams didn’t know enough to act in their own best interests? Or did he understand their “basketball reasons” better than they did?

The NBA, as you probably know, owns the Hornets, who play in a city that has been proven unviable for NBA basketball. Chris Paul understands this. That’s why there is no chance he would ever return when his contract expires after this lockout-shortened season.

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I don’t know what the league can get for Chris Paul now. The Hornets won’t get a deal better than what they already had. Instead, they’ll pay a heavy price. And so will the Rockets and, yes, the Lakers (one figures they weren’t done dealing). Maybe David Stern will pay their bill. Or, better yet, let him send it to guys like Gilbert.

The Board of Governors? Please. The Hornets had been shopping Paul for the past week: to the Knicks, the Celtics and the Lakers, among others. But now the league suddenly decides that any prospective deal involving its welfare case, the Hornets, would have to be discussed (and ostensibly approved) in a league-wide meeting?

What am I missing here? Didn’t the owners make a 7 percent score — from 57 down to 50 — on basketball-related income as a result of their lockout? And what of those fabulous “system issues”?

Seems to me this is just more of the same: owners whining that the Lakers got another superstar.

That’s not going to change. That’s the way the NBA has always been, and always will be. Whatever the BRI figure, big stars will angle for the big markets.

There’s nothing David Stern or his whiny owners can do about it. A guy like Dan Gilbert would be better off with the Washington Generals. If he thought the Chris Paul deal was bad, I can’t wait to hear him when the Lakers get Dwight Howard.

Tagged: Pelicans, Rockets, Lakers, Pau Gasol, Chris Paul

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