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Illegal Defense: A Crime Worse Than The Lockout

How can any of us trust the league again?

The NBA has seen it's fair share of scandals over the years and some fans will always believe that things aren't quite on the up and up. Going all the way back to the "frozen envelope" in the 1985 draft lottery that gave the 1st pick and Patrick Ewing to the Knicks and as recently as the Tim Donaghy betting scandal, we've had plenty of reasons to not trust the NBA. Overall, I never believed the game was actually fixed but I did have a problem with the way some issues were handled by the league. The biggest issue has always been the way David Stern has tried to sweep any referee issue under the rug, not allow them to be questioned, and pretend they're infallible. Super-star calls, no-calls in late situations, and bigs like Yao being reffed differently have all been a problem, but by comparison to this newest Chris Paul fiasco, they were nothing.

The NBA put us through a 5 month lockout and lost 16 games because they were losing money and needed to make changes to allow the small market teams to compete with the Lakers and Knicks. I think we all knew that part of this goal was never actually feasible. Good for the owners to recoup lost money, but star players like Paul, LeBron, Carmelo, and all future stars will always want to play on the biggest stage; no minor change to the free-agency rules was going to change that. Sure enough, what did we see as soon as the new deal was reached? Tyson Chandler going to the Knicks, and Chris Paul and Dwight Howard trying to find a way to go to the Lakers. The owners were upset with star players dictating where they would play, but as long as free-agency exists, the players have the power to decide where they want to play.

So for teams like the Hornets, when it's painfully obvious that they won't be able to re-sign a star player who longs for another city, they have the right to trade that player and get something back to set themselves up for the future instead of losing him for nothing. To quote David Stern in talking about the new deal, "I believe in free agency," Stern said, "We have a deal where a player who has completed his time at a team under a contract has a right to go someplace else. And then there are potential judgments to be made by teams about whether there's a time when they want to consider getting something more for that player in the event he will leave. So nothing has changed about that. That dynamic is the same." Excuse me David? Isn't that exactly what the Hornets just tried to do? Paul made it known that he wouldn't re-sign with that joke of a franchise in New Orleans so their General Manager, who the league tasked with running the franchise, made the necessary moves to keep them competitive for the years to come. That was a great deal for the Hornets! Getting Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, and Lamar Odom, plus a 1st round pick is an amazing haul for Chris Paul. The Hornets made the 'judgement' that they wanted to get a few good players for Chris Paul instead of losing him for nothing, just like every other team does, how could you tell them no?

Looking ahead, the league has just signed the death warrant for the Hornets; Chris Paul still wants to leave but now their hands are tied. How can the Hornets possibly get a better deal for Paul now? Not only will they not find a deal with more talent coming their way, but what team would want to get involved in a trade with them now? The Lakers and Rockets now have to mend fences with players that were basically told 'you're not wanted anymore'. What team wants to go through that circus? The Hornets will lose Paul for nothing, have no way of improving their team, and will basically just be counting down the days until their contracted.

David Stern and the owners have killed a team with this move and for what, the best interest of the league? Where was the best interest of the league when the Lakers got Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies for nothing? Where was the best interest of the league when Barkley got traded to the Suns for Tim Perry and Jeff Hornacek? Where was the best interest of the league when the Cavaliers traded James Worthy to the Lakers for Don Ford? Where was the best interest of the league when Wilt Chamberlain was traded from the 76ers to the Lakers, when Kareem was traded from Milwaukee to the Lakers? The "best interest of the league" wasn't invoked for any of those awful trades but it's invoked in a fair trade? Stern and the league blocking this trade had nothing to do with the best interest of the league, this was a final way for the league to stick it to the players. The owners weren't happy with the deal they got in the new CBA negotiations, were ticked off by the stars still wanting to go to bigger markets, and this was the only way to flip off the players one more time, extract a pound a flesh, and get even in their mind. This wasn't about business and common sense, this was about jealousy and ego. This didn't just hurt the Hornets, it hurt the Rockets as well. In a two for 1 swap of Martin/Scola for Gasol, I wasn't in favor of the trade, but Morey always thinks one move ahead and this deal would have freed up enough cap space for the Rockets to also make a legit offer to Nene. Now, they'll likely get neither.

The most important thing to any sports fan is to know that their team, if run well, has a chance to compete and win. To trust everything is being run fairly and believe that the fix isn't in. How can the 3 teams involved in this deal believe that now? How can their fans trust the league? This was a huge error by the league and something that will haunt them for years. I love basketball and I love my Rockets, but the NBA as a whole has a lot of work to do to win back my trust and full support. David Stern has to go.

Images by eflon used in background images under a Creative Commons license. Thank you.