Friday, December 09, 2011

David Stern really is trying to kill the NBA

Light posting continuing through the weekend as niece's wedding and associated family celebrations culminate. -Ed.

This development yesterday stunned even me, and I'm not all that stunnable any more.

In a spectacular and unprecedented turn of events, the Rockets went from a massive overhaul of their roster to a mountain of wrecked plans.

The Rockets had reached agreement on a three-team deal to get center Pau Gasol from the Lakers, sending top scorers Kevin Martin and Luis Scola to the Hornets.

Hours later, the trade that the three teams involved considered a done deal and had been the key to the Rockets' plans was torn apart when the NBA stepped in and killed it.

The league rescinded the deal, then disputed reports that it acted because of objections by NBA owners to having the NBA-owned Hornets send star New Orleans guard Chris Paul to the Lakers.

I was prepared to be as disappointed about the trade's implications for the Rockets as I was about all of the Astros' offseason machinations (read this for some good news on that front) but for Stern to take an action like this is astounding. Stern is essentially the owner of the Hornets franchise since the league assumed control of the team following its financial difficulties (related to the city of New Orleans' own fate). Former NBA player Dell Demps runs the team day-to-day as GM, and a deal for the Hornet's star Paul has been developing ever since the atrocious owners' lockout of players finally ended.

It's not as if Stern came back from a weeks-long vacation after having forced the NBAPA to kneel before him and find that his fellow greed-consumed billionaires had made a mess in the kitchen. In fact, after showing the usual iron-will solidarity management always musters when their opponent is labor, a bunch of crybabies complained about the big, bad Lakers getting all the puzzle pieces, and Stern caved to them.

If a good trade is, as the cliché goes, one in which everyone wins, David Stern stepped in and with one overbearing, heavy-handed swipe, turned the Rockets’ three-team deal Thursday into one in which everyone loses. [...]

In a statement, league spokesmen explained that Stern stepped in because the NBA owns the Hornets and the NBA killed the deal “for basketball reasons.”

This was as opposed to the explanation absolutely everyone else believed, that league owners did not want the team they own to help the Lakers by sending them Chris Paul with Dwight Howard likely to follow. The explanation seemed even more ridiculous when Yahoo Sports got a hold of an email Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sent to Stern. [...]

No matter what anyone thinks of how the deal would impact their team, killing it causes damage that starts with the trade and quickly spreads.

I'll let you click the links for the basketball implications. What I see is -- obviously -- more political.

David Stern got a lot of hosannahs from the exclusive club that employs him after he made the players knuckle under in the lockout. With some players going overseas -- and staying there, like Duke's Kyle Singler -- owners don't appear to see the long-term damage they did to their franchises in exchange for the short-term immediate profit. They are indeed counting on the fans to sulk and grumble for this season, maybe the next one, then forget all about the strife and come back, bringing their wallets with them.

While he may be right about that, the unintended consequence is that there will be a stronger market for professional basketball players outside the United States in the coming years. Purposely diminishing the value of the skill set in your labor force is a poor management strategy. Naturally Stern doesn't see it that way; he's got a gaggle of colicky one-tenth-of-one-percenters to coddle, after all. Damn the future, it's all about now. Sound like a familiar corporate refrain?

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and the Lakers’ Mitch Kupchak spent countless hours hammering out the deal, as they and GMs around the league had been given the clear understanding that Demps was fully authorized to do his job with the only stipulation that he not exceed the luxury tax line.

They were also never told that they had to make a deal that would appeal not only to the teams involved, but to the commissioner.

While Stern is in no way qualified to judge the quality of players or trades, he ought to be able to do better than this as commissioner. Instead, he hammered the league’s credibility, actually living up to the sort of doubts that drive the conspiracy theorists.

One can assume that (Rockets owner) Leslie Alexander and (Lakers owner) Jim Buss have been calling Stern and hitting him as hard as he smashed their trade. But they are badly outnumbered. And as wrongfully as they must feel that their employee mistreated their teams, he did not do anywhere near the damage as to the team the NBA owns.

And not that he gives a shit, but there can't be a single NBA player sending Stern so much as moldy fruitcake for Christmas, much less a card.

It would serve him justly if all of the European stars the league has recruited and signed over the past few seasons eventually went back home. And took more Americans with them. Read more about Singler's decision to play in Spain long-term and the way the NBA's rookie salary cap affects late first- and early second-round draftees, and you can see where the owners have screwed the pooch.

Stern needs to organize a winter bowling league with Kirk Kerkorian and "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap so they can swap stories and laugh their asses off.

Because he seems to be worthless for anything else.

Update: Rejected Chris Paul Trade Prompts Expletive-Laden Tirade By Enraged NBA Executive

Some took it as proof the system, even after a five-month lockout, is still flawed, while others simply called the league a "complete joke."

But nobody has been as blunt as one anonymous NBA executive, who was quoted at length in a report on Yahoo! Sports.

"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?" the unnamed executive told Adrian Wojnarowski. "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."

Update II:

Multiple sources are reporting that the Chris Paul trade is not dead and still being worked on, as the NBA attempts to save face following Thursday's trade veto by David Stern.

Stern is going to try to get the Rockets to give the Hornets both Courtney Lee and Patrick Patterson in an attempt to sell that Lamar Odom's age made the original deal bad. It's absurd, but that's how they'll try to package it. How this ends is anybody's guess, but we're leaning toward Paul becoming a Laker through an altered trade of some type. Sadly, if the Lakers add anything else to this deal we'd veto it from their perspective and they will too. The only thing that is certain is that we're all dumber for having gone through this episode.


Greg said...

The NBA still exists? Really? I hadn't realized it was relevant for any purpose beyond supplying boy-toys to the Kardashians?

Elderlady said...

Rockets really took a beating on this one...

From having a couple of really good improvements.... to ...... WTH???