Nearly a week after I boldly predicted that Chris Paul would indeed get his wish and become a New York Knick, disaster struck. On my birthday, December 8th, 2011 the Los Angeles Lakers completed a trade for Chris Paul. I was completely shocked and worried, but not for the reason you would think. Yes, the odious Los Angeles Lakers found a way to acquire the best point guard in the NBA, but for me much more was at stake. If that trade would have went through, my prediction would have been wrong. Feel free to check my facts on this one, but I am sure that I have never posted an incorrect prediction. I even predicted that OchoCinco would be a bust for the Pats. For me, being wrong is simply unacceptable. Nevertheless, while I was sweating it out in Boston over my failed prediction, David Stern swooped in and canceled the trade from New York. At first, I was excited that my perfect prediction streak would remain intact, but then I had a startling epiphany: David Stern didn’t cancel the trade just to keep Chris Paul in New Orleans, he did it to protect the Lakers. David Stern was trying to save the Lakers from their own shortsightedness.
The deal that the Lakers had in place for Paul called for the Lakers to give up four-time All-Star Paul Gasol and NBA Sixth Man of the Year Lamar Odom. In return they would receive Chris Paul. Not only would the Lakers have given up two All-Star caliber players, they would have given up their biggest advantage; size. As of last week, The Lakers were the toughest matchup in basketball. Being a Celtics fan, there was no team that I feared more than the Lakers. They had size advantages at all positions except at point guard. They trotted out three players over six foot ten, two of whom (Gasol and Odom) were extremely skilled for their size. Having Kobe Bryant and battle-tested veteran Derek Fisher didn’t exactly hurt them either.
I hate to admit it, but they were the team to beat. They could certainly beat any team from the Eastern Conference, and they were just as likely to win the West. And they were proven winners. They just happened to run into a Dallas Mavericks team that caught fire and delivered one of the greatest 3pt shooting performances of NBA playoff history. Unfortunately in that series the Mavericks did more than just sweep the Lakers out of the playoffs, they swept the smug self-confidence of the entire Laker organization away as well. The Mavericks succeeded in doing what the entire NBA had failed to do for two whole years; they made the Lakers vulnerable.
David Stern was fully aware of the sense of desperation that invaded the Lakers front office after the Mavericks swept them. He knew they were going to try and do something reckless. The Lakers convinced themselves that they wanted Chris Paul no matter what the cost was. The cost turned out to be very high, and it potentially could have ruined the Lakers. Meanwhile, David Stern was watching these discussions develop in horror, unable to act, until he too had an epiphany. He realized he could intervene and save the Lakers from themselves by vetoing the trade as owner of the New Orleans Hornets.
Why would David Stern want to save the Lakers? The Lakers are one of the most profitable teams in the NBA. With the state-of-the-art Staples Center as their home, and the phenomenal Kobe Bryant as their leader, the Lakers are set up for both economic and basketball related success. The only potential obstacle in the way of continued fiscal success for the Lakers is their own management, which is becoming increasingly desperate with each passing day. They are desperate to the point where they are willing to gamble their entire future on one player who has already undergone major knee surgery. David Stern did not want to allow the Lakers to mortgage their future, so he took action, not as the commissioner of the NBA, but as the owner of the New Orleans Hornets. I am sure, that there are plenty of trades that David Stern would like to veto, but this was the one he actually had the right to act upon. The NBA owns the Hornets, and David Stern runs the NBA. If this was any other team, Stern would not have been able to intervene.
David Stern almost saved the Lakers. He prevented the Lakers from making completing the trade, but he could not save the Lakers relationship with Lamar Odom. Odom was deeply upset by the proposed trade, and nearly burst into tears on live television. He immediately demanded a trade, and was dealt to the Dallas Mavericks for a first round pick. The Lakers were forced to give up a proven player for a draft pick because of this whole fiasco. Now, unless they are able to make a move before the season starts, the wildly inconsistent Metta World Peace (formerly known as Ron Artest) will be forced to step into a starting role. This is a major downgrade. At small forward the Lakers will replace an all-star with an overpaid, overrated player who is well past his prime. David Stern helped the Lakers immensely, but he managed to run Lamar Odom out of L.A and irritate Kobe Bryant in the process.
With the departure of Odom, the Chris Paul to the Lakers rumors are officially dead. There is no way that they would ever give up both Bynum and Gasol for Paul. Outside of those two, the Lakers do not have any valuable trade commodities. The Lakers and the Clippers have both pulled out of the Chris Paul sweepstakes, which leaves a major question unanswered: Where will Chris Paul end up? Mark my words, Chris Paul will wait out the season in New Orleans and sign with the New York Knicks next offseason. Paul wants to play in New York more than anywhere else, so I presume that he wouldn’t mind waiting out sixty more games in New Orleans for that opportunity to open up. Clearly, as a Celtics fan, I do not want this to happen. Nevertheless, it is the most likely scenario at this point. No matter what, I believe that we will all have to wait out the year to see what happens, because next year everything changes. Next year, it becomes Paul’s move, not David Stern’s. I just hope he chooses not to air his decision on primetime television. We all know how that sort of thing turns out…..