Chris Paul trade rejected: Was it really to save NBA parity?
The NBA rejected a trade to send superstar Chris Paul from small-market New Orleans to the Los Angeles Lakers. In doing so, the league apparently made some small-market owners happy.
When National Basketball Association owners and players salvaged a good portion of the current season with a new collective bargaining agreement, sports-labor experts were split over whether or not it would fix the main problem it set out to address: inequality between small-and large-market teams.Skip to next paragraph
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Now, little more than a week after that Nov. 28 announcement, NBA Commissioner David Stern has intervened dramatically to promote the let’s-level-the-playing-field idea, experts say.
Mr. Stern vetoed a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul – a point guard who many consider the most dynamic since Magic Johnson – from the small-market New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers, a perennial contender.
The move is being vilified by many sports analysts, who say the decision is autocratic and, in the end, not even in the Hornets' best interests.
In the trade, the Lakers would have had to give up two top players for Paul: forwards Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. Odom would have gone to New Orleans and Gasol would have gone to the Houston Rockets, who in turn, would have sent forward Luis Scola and guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic to New Orleans, in addition to a first-round draft pick.
From a sports perspective, it was considered a fair trade. Paul will be a free agent at the end of the season, and he has said he will not re-sign for the Hornets. By trading him now, the Hornets at least would be getting a significant haul in return. By holding on to him through the end of the season, they might get nothing at all.
Yet it would still clearly be a case of the rich getting richer. That issue, long problematic, has been underscored in recent years by the flight of small-market stars such as LeBron James (Cleveland) and Carmelo Anthony (Denver) to Miami and New York, respectively. It suggests that, even more than in the past, top players are leaving less-glamorous locales at a competitive disadvantage, some say.
“The fact that this trade was vetoed by Stern is very much influenced by the issue of small-market teams versus large-market teams, since that was such a big issue in the talks,” says Mark Conrad, associate professor of law and ethics at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business in New York.
While the three-team trade would not have technically violated any equality principles, he says, Stern “wanted to keep the spirit of the trend to make it easier for smaller market teams to compete with larger ones. Having just closed a major labor contract, he didn’t want to appear inconsistent.”