Nobody Gets Chris Paul!

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This morning, Tom Ziller dubbed the NBA owners "cannibals." That particular holiday spirit came out during the CBA negotiations, and had much to do with conflicts of personality and just general crappiness as human beings. But let's suppose that all owners were pristine, rational human beings. Between the CBA and the axed Chris Paul trade, they have set up a situation where they are bound to claw each others' eyes out.

To wit: Ostensibly, or at least between the lines, Stern couldn't afford to see Paul land in Los Angeles because it helps the Lakers get better. Helping one of the league's most powerful franchises get better is perceived as a slight against the "overall good of basketball," which has somehow come to include the pipe dream of "competitive balance" or parity (anyone look at the NBA record books lately?) Paul to LA, presumably followed by Dwight Howard, would indeed have been an embarrasment of riches. But say we exclude the Lakers. Doesn't it just turn into teams sniping each other off, arguing that "we suck worse than you do" or "we have more disadvantages to overcome"? One could argue that, almost invariably, both of these are the responsibility of the team, not the league, to address. However, that's not the NBA we're living in right now, so let's move forward, shall we?

All teams, minus the Lakers, are united in their belief in a better league. Right. By this logic, perhaps the most slippery slope in recent sports history, almost any half-decent team that lands Paul would find themselves out in the cold—and the deal rejected, for basketball reasons. Stern's hands are tied; he can't really do otherwise at this point. The comical part of it, though, is that the owners are hiding behind "competitive balance" when really, all they care about is furthering their individual interests. No team wants to see Chris Paul end up on a contender; they want Paul for themselves. Thus, the second a team makes an effective bid, they're out of the noble "good of the league" club.

At this rate, and according to the most basic precepts of a fair and balanced NBA, the only place for Paul is the Hornets. Until next summer, at least, when presumably, the owners will try and find a new way to pressure to Stern into keeping Paul from going where he wants. And the Hornets? They will end up a shell of a team. Competitive balance, indeed. 

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This situation reminds me of the backstory of McCulloch v. Maryland from the early 1800s. Like the post-lockout deal today, the Constitution was pretty fresh at that point, and Madison (i.e., your "good league" club) wanted to maintain his pristine system of checks and balances, while Hamiltonians (i.e., Chris Paul and the other players and teams involved in the nixed trade) wanted to jump into that system and operate within it, test its boundaries, and generally pursue their interests within it, rather than preserve "it" for its own sake. Madison felt that the Second Bank of the U.S. was contrary to the spirit of the constitutional system created, just like your "good league" club saw Paul to the Lakers as contrary to "what the lockout was all about." The Hamiltonian way of thinking was that a system was in place, creation of the bank was authorized under that system, so creation of the bank was unobjectionable as contrary to the system (i.e., unconstitutional), just as Chris Paul & co. saw that the trade was within the parameters of the new deal and felt that it therefore was unobjectionable under it. In the case of the bank, the Supreme Court (i.e., the anti-Stern) ruled that its authorization was proper. In the case of Chris Paul, Stern intervened and ruled that the trade was improper. That the trade was contrary to "what the lockout was all about" doesn't mean that the trade shouldn't happen; rather, it means that the deal reached failed to live up to the spirit and values of (apparently some of) its creating parites.

Tried to get into this this morning at http://bit.ly/seYmFx. Short answer: this is bad news.

It will be particularly interesting to see if Demps attempts to trade CP3 to a small market team that's also competitive. Will the Dan Gilberts of the League still howl or will they accept it? Just as during the lockout, Gilbert's position in his email to Stern was basically that bad teams should be protected from their own incompetence and good teams shouldn't be allowed to maintain their success*--he just masked it in the redolent bullshit of "competitive balance." I really hope that Demps is allowed to try again so that we can find out whether the new rule is: only bad teams are allowed to get good players, only small market teams are allowed to get good players, or good players may only go where a majority of owners and Stern think they should go.

* It was also bizarre that part of his argument was that the Lakers would reduce their luxury tax, part of which Dan Gilbert gets!

The conspiracy theorist here sees this as the first step towards contracting the Hornets. Maybe Paul'll stay therefore making them impossible to contract, just to fuck with David Stern. Long leaps in logic, but it somehow kinda makes a little sense.