Chris Paul Trade Fiasco ‘Scales of Losing’ – David Stern Edition

In one of the most bizarre cases in sports history, the NBA decided to overrule a trade involving the Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets last night for “basketball reasons.”

At about 6:30 ET, Marc Stein announced the trade:

  • LA would be getting Chris Paul.
  • Houston would be getting Pau Gasol.
  • New Orleans would be getting Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, AND draft picks.

Less than an hour later, the NBA stepped in…and stepped in it.

chris-paul-tradeImage source:

3-Way Paul Trade Benefited All Involved

There aren’t many trades that actually benefit every team involved, but this was one of them.

Keep in mind the fact that New Orleans has absolutely no shot of keeping Chris Paul at the end of the season. He would have walked away and left them with nothing. Instead, they turned nothing into three starters, a quality backup, AND some draft picks.

LA would shed $21 million AND get the best point guard in the league to team up with Kobe Bryant while also keeping Andrew Bynum – the one piece that Orlando really wants in exchange for Dwight Howard (don’t ask me why, as I would never trade for Bynum…but that’s what the Magic want).

Houston would be starting their rebuilding project around the second most talented big man in the league (behind Dirk).

Then, the NBA got involved.

As a fan of a small-market team (Indiana Pacers), I want to be happy about this. After all, LeBron James murdered the city of Cleveland last summer, and that’s just not fair. We need to maintain “competitive balance” and fairness. We can’t let these players just dictate where they want to go and when.

I WANT to be happy about it.

But then, I have to look at the facts:

  • Fact: Chris Paul is the best pure point guard in the NBA and one of the top five players in the league entirely.
  • Fact: The NBA has placed incentives to keep stars in one place. If a star wants to leave, he will be purposefully leaving millions of dollars on the table.
  • Fact: Chris Paul, for one reason or another, has chosen to leave all those dollars on the table if he has to and will not sign an extension with New Orleans next summer.
  • Fact: Further than that, there aren’t many teams that Chris Paul will sign an extension with next summer…so trade partners for New Orleans are limited.
  • Fact: This sucks for New Orleans, but this is America, and every human being (me, you, and yes, even NBA millionaires) should have the right to choose where he wants to work if he is talented enough to have that choice.
  • Fact: Yesterday, New Orleans made the most out of a tough situation and executed a three-team trade that would have absolutely made their team better.
  • Fact: David Stern’s ego and the bitterness of several owners got in the way.

No matter how you slice it, this is not good for anyone involved. In fact, as I look over the entire landscape, I can’t find a single “winner” in this deal being disallowed.

Chris Paul Trade Fiasco ‘Scales of Losing

Here is a list of yesterday’s losers, rated and ranked on a scale from 1-10 from those who lost the least to those who lost the most:

Los Angeles Lakers – 2.5 on the Losing Scale

The Lakers definitely lost A LOT in this situation.

They would have gotten one of the top five players in the league. The trade would have kept them in the running to also get Dwight Howard. Plus they were shedding lots of money from their cap.

This whole thing isn’t fair to them. Oh well.

They are still the Lakers…feeling bad for them would be like feeling bad for Donald Trump if one of his newest investments flopped.

Yeah, you lost some money. I’m sorry. You’re still Donald Trump.

Look! Donald Trump eats chocolate ice cream bars...JUST LIKE THE REST OF US! (And like the rest of us, he surely things the NBA flubbed this Paul trade decision...big time.

Image source:

Chris Paul – 5.0 on the Losing Scale

Somehow, I think Chris Paul will still be ok…at least in terms of how he is perceived by us.

Unlike Carmelo Anthony, he hasn’t lied to his city and pledged his false allegiance in any way. Unlike Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, he gave his team plenty of time to work through the situation and make the best out of it. Ironically, CP3 might actually come out of this as a sort of sympathetic figure.

Unfortunately, from a basketball standpoint, Chris Paul couldn’t have lost much more. It appears incredibly unlikely that he will be able to go to the Lakers this year. There really wasn’t a better situation for him to go to when you combine the market, the team, and the owner he would have been playing for.

Paul will probably be forced to play the entire 2011-2012 season with New Orleans. If he wants to stay “above the fray,” he will have to play hard and play as many games as possible; he can’t look like he’s “dogging it” or throwing away the season.

This would be all well and good if he didn’t have a history of knee problems. Now, he will have to throw away one of his (who knows how many he has) good years playing on a team that he doesn’t want to play for.

The only possible way for CP3 to come out of this on top is for him to play hard all season, make an All-NBA Team to prove he’s worth the money, not get hurt at all, have the Lakers or Knicks or somebody trade away some expensive players without gutting their team completely, and THEN sign with them for LESS money than he would have gotten if the trade went through.

I don’t feel bad, per se, for Chris Paul, considering he’s making millions playing the game he loves…but still, I don’t necessarily feel good for him right now either.

Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol – 5.5 on the Losing Scale

The Lakers have decided to change things up and move their franchise in another direction. Odom and Gasol had been important pieces in the past, and even though they are both younger than Kobe, LA decided that THEY were the expendable players on the team.
Apparently, Odom never even received a phone call from the Lakers yesterday before the deal happened. Both players were truly blind-sided.

Of course, as with any hardship, both players must have started the healing process by looking at their new situations. They wouldn’t have to play with Kobe Bryant anymore, they would be “the guy” on their new teams, and neither situation was a terrible one.

With the deal is off, what are they supposed to do now?

This would be like breaking up with your girlfriend (one of those terrible breakups that happen in a public place and end with you dumping beef barley soup all over her car…no, I’m not speaking from experience here), then running into her less than a day later and being forced to start dating again.

This WILL end poorly.

The only reason Odom isn’t further down on the list is because this entire incident might become the 3rd or 4th most watched episode in The Kardashians history…he will benefit from it eventually.

Dan Gilbert – 6.0 on the Losing Scale

Source: The Basketball Jones

Dan Gilbert is that owner in your fantasy league that vetoes any trade that doesn’t involve him. At this point, he’s a complete joke.

Alright man, we get it. LeBron James screwed you and your entire city over. GET OVER IT.

YOU were the man that coddled him at every turn. YOU were the man that signed washed up players to huge contracts because you wanted to win immediately instead of build a complete team that LeBron could grow with. YOU were the enabler. YOU blew it just as much as LeBron.

Should LeBron have announced he was leaving on national television in such a narcissistic manner? Of course not. But when people like you, Dan Gilbert, have been telling him how perfect he is for the last fifteen years of his life, what do you expect the guy to do?

In the irony of ironies, your little letter yesterday failed to notice one thing: this trade was AWESOME for the Hornets, a fellow small-market team just like Cleveland.

You got mixed up in big names and dollar signs – the same flaw you made for seven years with LeBron James – in order to get some bitterness out.  In the process, you destroyed some competitive balance (which has never actually existed anyway…just look at a list of NBA Champions sometime) by screwing over the Hornets for no real reason.

You were a sympathetic figure as soon as The Decision happened. Your letter immediately afterwards backfired on you a little. This letter makes you look like a disgrace.

Good luck getting anyone to come to Cleveland ever again.

New Orleans Hornets – 8.9 on the Losing Scale

An absolute atrocity.

They would have gone from a team that barely made the playoffs last year to a team with the following lineup.


  • Jarrett Jack
  • Kevin Martin
  • Lamar Odom
  • Luis Scola
  • Emeka Okafor


  • Trevor Ariza
  • Goran Dragic
  • Quincy Pondexter

That’s a solid team. Plus, they would be getting draft picks AND a lot of (future) cap space to make a big signing in free agency. They made their team deeper, younger, AND more flexible in one trade.

Now, they are left with nothing.

You might say, “That’s not true. They are left with Chris Paul!”

But again, Chris Paul is NOT coming back next season. Good luck building around an aging Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Who would want to come to New Orleans to play with them?

I can’t say this clearly enough: the Hornets have been absolutely CRUSHED by the NBA reneging this deal…the organization that actually owns them!

Kobe Bryant – 9.0 on the Losing Scale

The stakes for Kobe at this point are clear: his peak will never be as good as Jordan’s peak, and that’s fine; his career could still be better than Jordan’s career, however.

What does he need for that to happen? Three more solid years and one or two more championships.

With Chris Paul on board, those prospects seemed good. With Chris Paul and Dwight Howard on board, those prospects were basically guaranteed.

Now? I just don’t know.

Maybe Kobe can get Pau and Lamar back on board and get them all to “stick it to the man” this year. Maybe the Lakers can get back to the Finals once or twice while Kobe is on his last legs.


But probably not.

And for Kobe, a guy who doesn’t want to merely finish in the top ten all time, but wants true greatness…he loses more than almost anyone else in this deal.

David Stern – 9.6 on the Losing Scale

Except for this man.

david-sternAt this point, David Stern has completely lost touch with reality. He has no idea what is good for the league and what’s not.

Did “basketball reasons” exist when LeBron and Chris Bosh hijacked their teams last summer, illegally negotiated a deal under the table to play with each other, and stabbed their teams in the back?

Did “basketball reasons” exist when Chris Wallace gave away Pau Gasol to the Lakers for a pittance and swung two titles in L.A.’s favor?

Would “basketball reasons” have existed if Chris Paul was traded to Sacramento for DeMarcus Cousins, Tyreke Evans, and two draft picks?

In the past year, David Stern has gone from “unquestionably the best commissioner in all of sports” (in many people’s eyes) to “one of the sole reasons people are turning away from it in droves.”

There’s no way Stern survives this now.

If Chris Paul really does file a lawsuit against the league (and at this point, it’s looking like he will), the damage could be irreparable…not just for Stern, but for the NBA as a whole.

Not only has he disgraced himself, but he’s disgraced his entire league in the process.

I’m sure David Stern would say he’s trying his best, but as Sean Connery reminded us in The Rock, losers always whine about their best.

So long, Mr. Stern. It wasn’t nice knowing you.

About Jon Washburn

Jon Washburn grew up in Indianapolis, IN and as such, is a diehard Pacers, Colts, and Cubs fans. When it comes to college, he cheers for Notre Dame football fan and Purdue basketball. Yes, this sounds shady, but since he grew up without cable, he learned to love Notre Dame - the only team on TV. Glenn "The Big Dog" Robinson was at Purdue when Jon was in his formative years, so he latched onto them as well. Did that make him a fair-weather fan at the time? Sure. Give him a break...he was 8...and he has stayed with those teams ever since. Currently, he lives in Charleston, SC with his wife who grew up in Cleveland. Although he is no longer physically in the Midwest, his heart will always be there. Jon goes by the name "Twitch" because he has Tourette's Syndrome. Hit him up on his twitter @jwtwitch.


  1. Purely in terms of talent acquired – it looks like a good haul for New Orleans. But take into account that they would have added $15M (!!!) in salary obligations and not acquired a single player who is a top 2 caliber guy on a playoff team.

    Trades that make much more sense than this have been negated by a team's owners at the last minute before.

  2. Josh Tinley says:

    I agree. I can't find any legitimate "basketball reasons" not to do this trade. While you can never really replace someone like Chris Paul, the Hornets would have been far better off than most teams that suddenly lose a superstar player.

    I'm still a bit fuzzy on whether David Stern was acting as commissioner or as owner of the Hornets. If he's acting as commissioner, it doesn't make any sense to me why he vetoed this trade only a few years after doing nothing about the trade that sent Pau Gasol from Memphis to L.A. (Granted, thanks to little Gasol, that trade doesn't look quite so awful in retrospect.) Maybe there's something in the new CBA that I don't know about.

  3. There's also another issue in here that isn't being reported – this trade DOESN'T work as it is being reported.

    There have to be some more wrinkles here (such as Scola actually being flipped to LA for trade exemption) which make NOH haul worse than being stated.

    • thedrtwitch says:

      I don't think this is true. It doesn't work in ESPN's current trade machine because they haven't updated it to the current CBA rules.
      However, under the current rules, teams can receive 150% of the salary they are unloading instead of 125%. The trade worked…Stern just over-ruled it.

      • Wrong, they can receive up to 150% if they don't end up over the tax threshold after the trade, but NOH would be over.
        Moreover, NOH gets more than 150% so this trade doesn't work.

  4. tonythestatmaster says:

    As a Kobe hater, you hit the nail on the head: without CP3 AND/OR Howard, Kobe's chances to be among the elite 4 or 5 are almost completely gone with this trade being vetoed….which I absolutely LOVE!!!!!!!! Kobe already was lucky enough to be drafted to the Lakers (did he force the charlotte hornets? conflicting stories), be given Shaq, be given Pau…getting Howard and CP3 would have been ridiculous. The reason I feel inclined to support LeBron is because he never got anything given to him like Kobe (to no fault of Kobe), but the second he did anything about it he was criticized (rightly for THE DECISION, but wrongly for teaming up). That said, I feel bad for everyone else in this trade.

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