The Lakers’ attempts to acquire PG Chris Paul from New Orleans via a 3-way dance with the Rockets were broken up by David Stern earlier this week, presumably at the urging of string-pullers like Dan Gilbert and Mark Cuban, both of whom would either deny the NBA-owned Hornets the autonomy to make their own deals, or feel they have right of approval over what constitutes acceptable compensation for CP3 during the final few months of his contract. While the deal is likely to be resubmitted with additional bodies heading to NOLA, SB Nation’s Bomani Jones considers Gilbert’s reaction something akin to further sour grapes over The Decision (“there would be no more kissing some 25-year-old’s ass to get him to stick around and make the owner more money,”) and makes a reasonable suggestion there’s far more to this than the fate of the Hornets or Paul’s career trajectory ; “after a stalemate that will delay the NBA season for two months, with their wealth of experience in business and negotiating, the league’s attempts to keep its stars in line are more impotent than ever.”
What don’t the owners want to talk about? The fact that they now know, more clearly than the ever, that the cream of the crop will do what it wants because it can. All the CBA could do to restrict their movement was limit what they can earn. But if the Big 3 in Miami each passed up millions to play together, and if Paul is willing to pass on more than $20 million (and an extra year, which is crucial to a man with bad knees) to choose his destination, what can the owners do?
What they couldn’t do: sit and watch as a small-market hero went to a franchise which — including this near-miss — made at least one league-altering personnel move each of the last six decades. This was exactly what the league promised wouldn’t happen, another stacked roster in a glamorous city.
The NBA can’t do anything about competition among owners. Small-market executives can’t turn down calls from the 310 and 212 area codes for players they have no chance at keeping. Not when enough players are willing to turn down ten figures.