With the National Basketball Association back in full swing, commissioner David Stern wasted no time swinging a hay maker at the league, vetoing what could’ve been the biggest trade so far of a shortened season.

Late last week, Stern shot down a deal that could’ve landed all star point guard Chris Paul with the Los Angeles Lakers. The trade would’ve also relocated Lakers forwards Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom to Houston and New Orleans, respectively. Presumed to be acting on behalf of the new collective bargaining agreement, Stern likely vetoed the possible trade in an effort to keep the Lakers, a big-market team, from landing yet another big-time name. League owners of small market teams have grown increasingly frustrated over the past few years at their own inability to keep star players from departing to more attractive markets.

“There’s a reason that we went through this lockout,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s Ben and Skin Show, “and one of the reasons is to give small-market teams the ability to keep their stars and the ability to compete.”

In addition to moving Gasol and Odom, the potential trade would’ve also sent current Rockets guard Kevin Martin, forward Luis Scola and guard Goran Dragic to New Orleans along with a 2012 first round draft pick. Although Stern blocked the deal, was he too quick to put a hold on a trade that could have actually weakened the Lakers? Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk decide.

Riley: Big names aside, people want to think Stern made this move to keep the rich from getting richer. But in actuality, all he did was keep the Lakers from getting weaker. Chris Paul is an elite point guard, no doubt, but part, if not everything, that has made Los Angeles so tough over the last few years was the fact that no other team could match what they presented in terms of size and skill. With Gasol operating in the paint, Odom playing the Swiss Army knife-like sixth man off the bench and Andrew Bynum taking up space, the Lakers were practically a physical nightmare for any opponent. Moving Odom and Gasol would’ve diminished this team to the “average” label despite the presence of Paul and Kobe Bryant in the backcourt. Stern heard the name Chris Paul and he got scared. He didn’t even look at the deal for what it was; he actually saved the Lakers from making a huge blunder.

Green: What you fail to mention is that Los Angeles would’ve also cleared up close to $40 million in cap space and while losing two bigs out of their rotation would’ve hurt, the lure of cash, Kobe and Chris would’ve put them right back on top of the West. I think it was the smartest move for Stern to make. Had he not made the move, he would’ve been blamed for letting the Lakers pull another fast one and restock their lineup like they did when they originally got Gasol for practically nothing (giving up forward Kwame Brown). Now, if the Lakers want Paul then they have to wait until he’s a free agent, just like the rest of the teams in the league do, it’s totally fair.

Riley: It’s just too much panic from Stern for me to agree on this one. No matter how much money Los Angeles would’ve had available to throw at somebody, how many Odoms and Gasols are out there in the league? Those two offer you something that money just can’t buy and we’ve seen that as the Lakers have been in three out of the last four Finals. Do you really think Paul and Kobe can even exist in a backcourt together anyway? Bryant needs his hands on the ball in the clutch, not waiting for Paul to set up the offense. On paper, a Kobe/Chris backcourt sounds great but how is that going to help against power frontcourts like the ones in San Antonio and Dallas? With Bryant on his last legs and an often hobbled Bynum, this deal had failure written all over it.

Green: This deal had unfair written all over it. Say what you want about Bryant but he’s still one of, if not the best, shooting guards in the game. Putting him with Paul automatically gives you the best backcourt in the NBA and although Bynum has been banged up, we’ve seen his potential on display. A healthy Bynum is easily among the top five centers in the game and that $40 million would’ve surely landed at least one more big man who can play. Trust me when I tell you the Lakers would’ve come out like fat rats in this move. Stern rejecting another swindle for La La Land is excellent for the NBA and keeps the business competitive. Like Cuban said, allowing a deal where the Lakers, the most marketable team in basketball, gets Paul would’ve been a major slap in the face.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO