As I heard Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix (super-cool name, by the by) go on Dan Patrick's show and totally roast David Stern for nixing the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles, for a whole bunch of players and a draft pick, I started to wonder--"Sure, man, the lamestream media are all over Stern, but that's because they are in the pockets, of, I don't know, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who is always super media savvy and is known for his measured, thoughtful responses to bad news"
Some quick background, in case you haven't been following closely--the New Orleans Hornets had their owner, George Shinn say, essentially, "I can't run or own this team anymore, and I can't find a buyer." So the NBA, as an organization, gave him some money and let him walk, and they are now in charge of the Hornet's operations. Chris Paul, the only legitimate star on the Hornets has made it clear that he wants to leave that particular shitbox of a situation. The Lakers, Rockets and Hornets put together a deal--a pretty fair deal, according to most outside observers. Stern vetoed it.
And let's be clear--Mannix was fired up on Patrick's radio show. He was most definitely ranting. He's a bit more measured in his written piece, but it is still clear that he thinks that Stern made a massive mistake--you can tell, because he argues the only thing to do is reverse the decision: "The only recourse for Stern is to flip, issue a mea culpa and sign off on the deal. The consequences are enormous if he doesn't. One of the smallest of small-market teams will crumble. Paul will wither under the daily scrutiny of an insatiable media that will feed on speculation about his future. An already lukewarm fan base will turn away in droves, making New Orleans Arena a hollow, depressing tomb. This is David Stern's mess now, and he is the only one who can clean it up."
I said Mannix was kinder in his column than he was on the radio, but then again, this is a wonderfully nasty way of putting things: "An NBA spokesman said the league torpedoed the deal for basketball reasons, which is like saying Herman Cain dropped out of the race because he decided he didn't want to be president."
So yeah, I was thinking--that's what the Sports Illustrated guy thinks, but man--they publish Peter King and Rick Reilly and shit. What are the iconoclastic contrarians on the Interwebs going to say?
Turns out, they pretty much agree. At least, Tommy Craggs of Deadspin does (Tommy Craggs is making me read Deadspin again--you should read his stuff). And you know why? It was seemingly a pretty damn good deal for the Hornets given the fact that every NBA General Manager and his favorite dog know that the Hornets aren't going to be able to re-sign Chris Paul. You know, seeing as Chris Paul has publicly stated that he doesn't want to be there, but does want to help the team get the most they can for him out of a trade.
Craggs: "The Paul trade was a bad deal for the Lakers and a good one for the Hornets, the small-market team whose bullshit interests all those angry owners—and Stern, too, as Hornets owner in loco parentis—were supposedly defending. I'm with John Hollinger: The Hornets weren't going to find a better return on Paul than what they would've gotten in the deal (Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic, plus the Knicks' first-round pick), and what little leverage they had in the trade market for Paul has now been shot to hell and gone. The Lakers would've had a great pick-and-roll point guard with no one left to pick and roll with him. Superteam? Bullshit."
I have got to agree with Craggs and Hollinger mostly on what the Hornets would be getting back. Obviously, the plan for the Lakers was to acquire some big man who actually wants out of Florida, like, say, Dwight Howard, and hope that Paul, Howard and a frankly rapidly aging Kobe Bryant would be able to put together a couple of great years. (It is saying something about this debacle that even Skip Bayless was making some sense--he argued that given the health and age issues that Bryant and Paul have dealt with/are dealing with, he's be worried about calling any collaboration between them a "superteam").
Regardless, the Hornets put together a deal that gave them a bunch of decent players that they could presumably deal again, or use to cobble together a team that would at least be competitive--five players for one player? Can you name the folks on the Hornet's roster that these dudes would be replacing? I can't. I know more starters on the 1998 Hornets Team than I do the 2010 team.
So, in this Holiday Season, a miracle! Sports Illustrated, Dan Patrick, and Deadspin all agree on something--David Stern fucked up, but real good, and New Orleans got fucked, in the guise of being protected.