NBA commissioner David Stern attempted Friday to defuse a storm of criticism over the league’s shocking veto of a trade that would have sent star point guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Stern claimed the league’s decision, since it owns the New Orleans Hornets, was in the "best interests" of the team from a basketball standpoint.
"Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner’s Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling. All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets," Stern said in a statement.
"In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade."
The NBA vaguely cited "basketball reasons" Thursday night for its decision to nix the blockbuster three-team trade, but reports indicated Stern’s action was taken after a flurry of criticism from other NBA owners.
Evidence of the owners’ involvement in the decision gained traction early Friday, when Yahoo! Sports obtained and published an email from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, reportedly sent to Stern and a handful of other owners.
"It would be a travesty to allow the Lakers to acquire Chris Paul in the apparent trade being discussed," Gilbert wrote to Stern on Thursday, adding that the trade should be voted on by the 29 team owners.
Gilbert knows what it feels like to lose a superstar, after being burned last year when NBA MVP Lebron James up and left for Miami to join fellow All-Stars Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
The Hornets are trying to trade Paul because the 26-year-old, four-time All-Star has made it apparent he will not sign an extension, and is set to become a free agent at the end of the season.
The team’s trading partners are limited, however, since no team will trade for Paul unless he commits to signing a long-term deal.
The Lakers were set to send Lamar Odom to New Orleans and Pau Gasol to Houston, with the Rockets trading Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic to the Hornets. New Orleans also would have obtained a 2012 first-round pick from Houston.
Players are scheduled to report to teams Friday, one day after the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified by both sides. It is unclear whether the players involved in the trade will do so.