Bad Form, NBA!

In fantasy sports, most leagues have a veto system to accept or reject trades that happen between teams in the league.  When a trade is agreed upon there is then a review period when the rest of the teams can vote to accept or reject the trade and if half of the teams vote against the trade it does not go through.  I feel like there should only be a few instances when a trade should be rejected, even if it looks like a lopsided trade.  Unless it is a case of collusion between the two fantasy owners, I believe a trade should be allowed to go through.  A fantasy owner, especially one who pays to play in a league, is allowed to managed his team however he sees fit.  As long as he is managing his team in good faith, even if you disagree with his decisions and believe he is mismanaging his team, he should be allowed to do so.  If both teams feel like a trade helps their team, that trade should be allowed.  A fantasy owner who veto trades because they think they’re “unfair” or make one team “too good” or because they weren’t a part of the deal is “That Guy.”  Don’t be That Guy.  Last night, the NBA had a couple of its owners and people in the league office who were That Guy.

Last night, the NBA nixed a 3 team trade involving the New Orleans Hornets, Houston Rockets, and Los Angeles Lakers that would have sent, among other various players and draft picks, Chris Paul, one of the best point guards in the league, to the Lakers; Pau Gasol, one of the best big men in the league, to the Rockets; and Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin to the Hornets.

The Hornets are currently without an owner, and so the team is essentially owned and operated by the league and the other 29 owners.  A handful of them complained to NBA Commissioner David Stern about the deal being unfair, and so under the pressure of these owners, Stern said the trade was voided and dead.  Dan Gilbert, the owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, who gained a ton of national sympathy in 2010 for playing the role of the jilted lover when LeBron skipped town to go play in South Beach, squandered any and all sympathy I had for the guy with the most ridiculous, rhetoric-filled e-mail I’ve read from a billionaire who was whining like a 5 year-old girl because he didn’t get his way.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t think the Hornets should trade Paul because it’s a conflict of interest because the team is owned by the league and you don’t want to show favoritism to one or two teams over the other teams that essentially co-own the team, that is fine.  But you need to squash the trade rumors and trade talks before negotiations get serious and a deal is completed.  You can’t wait until a deal is consummated and then proclaim, “Whoa, wait just a minute, this is not right!”  Where was Dan Gilbert a week ago with his ridiculous e-mail to David Stern when the talk about the Hornets trading Chris Paul started to get really serious?

If you’re going to void the trade now, does that mean that other big market teams like the Celtics and Knicks aren’t allowed to try to acquire him now?  Do the Hornets have to have Chris Paul on their roster for the entire season and get ZERO compensation when he leaves next summer instead of the haul they were getting from this trade?  Do they even realize that this how bad this makes them look?  Is the league now going to unilaterally decide whether trades are fair or unfair just because a few owners are complaining?

This makes me think a two things:

1. The lockout ended prematurely.  The owners clearly are not on the same page with each other.  There is still a have and have-nots divide between the owners that was not resolved by the deal to end the lockout.  They rushed this deal with the players and crammed everything into a condensed timeframe to make things work so games could start on Christmas day.  And it’s inexcusable because they could have done this deal back in July or August.  It didn’t need to get to this point anyway.  It’s chaos right now.  The NFL was frenetic when their free agency started, but they still had over a month before their season started.  The NBA will have a matter of weeks to sort things out.  It’s a mess.

2. The dirty little secret of the NBA right now is that David Stern does not have the power that he once had.  He is going to step down as commissioner sooner than we realize, I think.  There are a lot of new owners in the league that weren’t around when the last lockout took place in ‘99.  There are a lot of owners who paid top market dollar to buy these teams, even the small market ones like Cleveland, and want to see returns on their investments.  Stern doesn’t have the same pull and cache with these guys that he did with the last group of owners.  It’s telling that this trade was voided almost immediately by Stern and no real reason was given for it and even more telling that it was because a handful of owners pitched a fit about it.
Whatever the outcome, the league did itself a major disservice last night and it was a major misstep just a week after so many people were so happy to have the league back.  I don’t even like the Lakers, I don’t even know if this trade would have necessarily made them better since they were giving up Pau Gasol and keeping Andrew Bynum, but even I think it was a terrible decision and poor handling of the entire situation be the league.