By 5 p.m. yesterday, the sports media had reported that Chris Paul was headed to the Los Angeles Lakers, as part of a three team trade with Houston and New Orleans that saw Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol also trading hands. Lakers fans were salivating over a future with Paul, a top-5 player, running the point next to Kobe Bryant (and maybe even Dwight Howard). Chris Paul represents such a marked improvement over last season’s 1 guards for the Lakers, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher, that they likely would have become title favorites overnight.
Perhaps because of this, the NBA owners stepped in and blocked the trade before it could be finalized. How could they do this? Until a new ownership group formally purchases the Hornets, their basketball office is under overall control by the NBA – and the owners of the rest of the 29 teams in the league. Because they are partial owners for the time being, the rest of the league has a right to veto any trades that the Hornets try to do. Earlier in the week, commissioner David Stern gave the Hornet’s management group the right to negotiate a trade for Chris Paul, but once it seemed Paul was headed to the Lakers, Stern caved to owners who were scared of the swing in balance of power, allowing them to block the trade.
Owners claimed to do this on the grounds that it "wasn't in the best interest of the league," and that Chris Paul would be required to play out his contract in New Orleans. The problem is, they would have felt, and acted, differently if he were headed to Cleveland, Minnesota, Sacramento, or any other struggling franchise.