The NBA is always excelling when the top market teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks, are succeeding. However, it seems as though a drift has occurred between the small and large market teams in the NBA, creating differences in opinions on various matters.
Perhaps no issue was more controversial than the Lakers trade in early December of 2011. Los Angeles had a deal in place with the New Orleans Hornets, which would have sent point guard Chris Paul to the Lakers in a three-team deal that also involved the Houston Rockets. The Lakers would have sent out Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. The trade had been made public and received immediate disapproval from the other team owners in the NBA. Ultimately, then-Commissioner David Stern vetoed the deal, famously citing ‘basketball reasons.’
Stern officially retired from his position at the beginning of February 2014, and now has opportunities to reflect upon his previous decisions. During an interview with the Nunyo & Company podcast, Stern stated that his role as the owner’s rep was to make the best trade possible for Paul:
“The NBA owned New Orleans, and I was running the team for the owners. I was the owners’s rep. And there had been a promise made to Chris Paul that he would be traded because he had been a great player for New Orleans, and a great community representative. But the trade was made without authorization of anyone who was in charge of supervising the team; and at least, the trade was shaped [without authorization]. It never became final because someone asked me as the owners’s rep: Are we going to do this trade? And I said, ‘No, we’re not going to do it.’ So the trade was never made.”
Had the trade went through, the Hornets would have received Odom, as well as Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick from the Houston Rockets. The return seemed to be quite the haul for former Hornets general manager Dell Demps. However when asked why the trade was specifically vetoed, Stern said that he felt the trade was a minimal return in the long run:
“Because we weren’t getting enough in return….”
That trade triggered a chain of events in the NBA, including Paul’s eventual relocation to the Los Angeles Clippers. It also created quite the awkward situation for both Odom and Gasol, who were visibly upset after being traded from the organization they won two championships with.
Many Lakers fans allude to that trade as the start of the downfall for the franchise, which slated them into their current rebuilding situation. However, you can’t blame fans and those around the NBA for always wondering what could have been if the Lakers were to have a backcourt of both Paul and Kobe Bryant.