David Stern's confusing obstruction of the Chris Paul trade

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  December 13, 2011 01:02 PM

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David Stern is a bully, according to Deron Williams. Just nod your head. (Mary Altaffer / AP file photo)

Suffice it to say NBA commissioner David Stern has an overbearing personality that played a huge role in the general distaste of the lockout. That distaste is now boiling over in the continued confusion over the blocked trades of Chris Paul by the league-owned New Orleans Hornets.

The Los Angeles Clippers followed up after getting their first proposal nixed by Stern and company by getting out of the fray, realizing that they were compromising their future success by including players like Eric Gordon in the trade possibilities. In turn, the NBA is now actively trying to revive a deal with them, hoping not to lose out on yet another one of the few landing spots for Paul as of this writing.

Billionaires vs. millionaires doesn't even come close to describing the power play that was occurring behind the scenes in the NBA this fall. Stern was so pompous, so boneheadedly determined to recoup owners' lost cash, and so head-scratchingly backpedaling in the end, that when Deron Williams called him a bully the other day, the collective basketball world didn't even flinch. Many nods were recorded.

Why is Stern a bully? Because of the NBA dress code. Because basketball related income for players is now 51.5 percent -- after being 57 percent under the previous labor deal. Because Stern often derides players, as if they're children, to better educate themselves on matters of importance. Because the lawyer in him is so unrelenting that he almost lost an NBA season, much to the satisfaction of his bosses and the dissatisfaction of NBA fans.

So after handing down take it or leave it deals to NBA players in the last month, including a 50-50 and 51-49 take on basketball related income in favor of the owners, Stern turned on the charm for two days and the deal got done.

Silly Stern, didn't he know that he could have had that deal a month ago? Why of course not. To reach a deal over the NBA lockout, Stern had to push the players to the brink ... stripping them of every dime, nickel and penny that he could recover for his 29 bosses. Only when he realized the players had a backbone, decertifying their union in preparation for a suit against the league, did he change strategy and relax his death grip on the season.

Flash forward to the NBA's hasty free agency period. Rumors of a Paul trade had been surfacing for months because of Paul's unwillingness to re-sign with the Hornets. It's a deadbeat franchise. With no NBA owner there, and no incentive to invest without one, the franchise is in a coma.

In making a deal for Paul, Hornets general manager -- or should I say, general chump? Because that's definitely how he's being treated -- Dell Demps knows he has to prepare for a future without his franchise player. Much like Dwight Howard and the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets last year, the idea behind a trade of your best player is to get compensation for him while he's still under contract, rather than get nothing when he walks at the end of said contract.

Somehow, the entire sports world understands this simplicity.

Here are some facts: Two deals were put on the table -- both of which were very fair -- and both were shot down by Stern. Not by Demps, who put them together, but by the big bad NBA commissioner. Stern even went so far as to say he made these decisions, particularly in blocking Paul's trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, "free from the influence of other NBA owners." So he's in the spigot himself here.

He called the trade to the Lakers a bad one for basketball related reasons. After the Lakers dropped out of the running for Paul, he then went on and directed his executives to shake down the Clippers for everything they have. When they pulled out -- for obvious reasons -- he then directed his executives, taking Demps out of the equation, to revive the deal.

None of this makes any sense.

In the weird, twisted world of the NBA, negotiations can appear disheveled and even aimless in approach. But make no mistake about it, with Stern on board as a direct stakeholder in the Hornets' future, the confusion and comatose nature of the franchise will only heighten with the NBA as its owner.

And then Stern will relent, unapologetically, and accept a deal for lesser value. It could have been done a week ago, but that's just too easy.

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