It’s been a bizarre week for Los Angeles Lakers fans. After the announcement last Thursday that Chris Paul would be headed to the Lakers it seemed inevitable that the team was securing its future for the next few years. However, after the vetoing of the trade later that evening the Lakers have been in a free-falling downward spiral.
The worst blow came Wednesday evening with the news that Chris Paul had been traded to the Lakers’ cross-hall rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers. The acceptance of this trade by the NBA and the rest of the owners of the Hornets came as a punch in the gut to the Lakers and their fans.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and ask for pity from the rest of the league. There’s no question that the Lakers have experience more than their fair share of success. In the past decade the team has won five NBA championships, which is more than than any other team in the league (besides the Boston Celtics and Chicago Bulls) has won in their entire existence.
Still, the precedent that the league set by vetoing the original Chris Paul trade was alarming. But, after Paul’s trade to the Clippers was met with league wide approval it showed the true nature of the owners currently running the New Orleans Hornets.
After the Lakers acquired Paul last week it was met with uproar from some of the small market owners. While Dan Gilbert was the most notable whiner of them all, there’s no doubt that others disapproved of the trade as well. These owners falsely played the tune of league parity and competitive balance, when they were ultimately doing whatever they could to help their own team succeed in the long run.
These owners need to take a step back and look into the mirror. The claim that they want what is best for the league and for the Hornets is laughable. Their priorities lie with their own teams, and have nothing to do with the Hornets or competitive balance in the league as a whole.
Owners like Gilbert, who purchased the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2005, refuse to accept responsibility for the fact that their franchises are inept. While it’s obvious that bigger markets are going to have certain advantages that smaller ones don’t, it doesn’t necessarily prevent a team from succeeding.
If you want an example of this simply look at the San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio is one of the lower markets in the NBA, yet managed to control the Western Conference (along with the Lakers) for the last decade. They established this reputation and maintained it by making successful basketball decisions, not by having movie studios down the street from their gym.
What owners like Gilbert refuse to do is accept responsibility for the boneheaded decisions they have made, and look at an excuse like market size to try and explain why their team is consistently in the cellar of the standings. If the role was reversed, and Gilbert was the one signing a major free agent to play for his Cavaliers, there would be no controversy. No letters written in childish fonts.
How do I know? Because Gilbert has behaved in a similar manner before. Before his team tried and failed to keep the best player they’ve ever had, LeBron James, to re-sign, Gilbert reaped the benefits of having a major superstar. But, his inability to hire a talented general manager that could put pieces around James is what ultimately doomed his franchise to another decade of iniquity.
Another small market owner, Michael Jordan of the Charlotte Bobcats, also expressed his displeasure in the original Chris Paul deal. But Jordan also admitted that if given the chance to bring Paul to Charlotte to play for the Bobcats, he would jump on the opportunity.
Of course he would. Any owner would.
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