“Everything that has transpired has done so according to my design.”
That was essentially the Commissioner’s message to fans of the NBA last night, after the Emperor magnanimously approved the trade sending Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for a package centered around Eric Gordon and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick.
Loyal readers of this blog no doubt recall with fondness last week’s Stern-bashing Ultimate Star Wars™ Knicks Guide, but here is an instance in which his Imperialness has truly gotten a bad rap.
Each and every scathing critique – and there are countless examples – of Stern’s handling of the entire CP3 mess has hinged upon the supposition that an inherently evil conflict of interest must exist when a league owns one of its own franchises. On this point, at least, there can be little debate.
That said, I have yet to see a fair commentary that looks beyond the predicament of the orphaned New Orleans Hornets to judge what should have been done, rather than lament the fact that this had to be done at all.
In a perfect world, the Hornets’ de-facto General Manager, Dell Demps, would have had complete autonomy to make basketball-decisions without meddling by the league. His independence would have ensured that even the appearance of impropriety never reared its ugly head.
But this isn’t Hooptopia, and David Stern is charged with the stewardship of the league as a whole, a league whose best interests are served by fostering the fiscal health and welfare of each of its franchises.
It is fair to question why the owners accepted the recently-negotiated Collective Bargaining Agreement in the first place if there still exist loopholes for players to dictate what teams they are willing to play for, but this is the cruel Galactic hand that the Commish was dealt.
The league needs a buyer for the Hornets, and allowing Paul to be dealt to the Lakers in exchange for a decent package of veterans was never going to cut it. David Stern knew this, and that is why he steadfastly insisted on a trade that would provide the Hornets with at least some semblance of marketability and upside.
So condemn the Emperor if you must, but let’s see how you handle things with this many superstars slipping through your fingers.
Sincere thanks to Jonah Kaner of The Knicks Wall for whipping up the Stern image above.