With a Hammer

By:
Published: December 11, 2011

I have almost no idea what continues to perpetuate the Chris Paul situation, and I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen in the end. The latter is way too hard for someone in my position to figure out. Staring at twitter or news feeds and hoping that `the answer’ pops out is hopeless; the answer has allegedly popped out a few times already only be shown to be otherwise. This is not news, this is not knowledge, this is not wisdom, this is not insight, and being first to know is an illusion.

As such, the digging into the former is the task at hand: what continues to perpetuate this situation. A few theories have formed over the past couple of days in an attempt to explain the behavior seen and predict actions yet to come. I will not recount them here.

Rather, I will start from a premise and proceed from there. This is a little peek into a post I’ll have about the lockout and CBA that will appear once all of this stuff settles out . . . so a while from now.

I think David Stern is very smart man. I think he cares more about the NBA than many people give him credit for. I also think Stern uses the New Orleans Hornets as a hammer.

A hammer is nothing more than a tool. It can be used in construction, destruction, reconstruction, deconstruction. . . . whatever your heart desires.

As I noted earlier, Stern may be using the Hornets to set an example for other owners. In particular, if this team can drum up $20,000,000 per year in extra money in the NBA’s smallest market in a year not including revenue sharing, etc., then every owner that is losing money should we wilting before the example . . . and taking notes.

In the CBA negotiations, to me, Stern did everything he could to preserve the season, including opposing what was reported to be the majority of owners on some negotiation points. The result of his efforts yield a CBA that is far from what I thought best for the NBA or the New Orleans Hornets, but I do think he did what he thought was best, and at great peril to his job and reputation.

Taking these premises forward, this Chris Paul situation takes on a certain character.

To sum up the story so far for those who are late to the party: Chris Paul informed the Hornets that he is not ready to sign a contract extension despite being in the last year of his current contract. Stern has been criticized for stepping in and vetoing a proposed trade that would send Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers and net several players for the Hornets. This trade has been praised and criticized in itself, but the vetoing is what has received the most attention.

As a de facto owner of the Hornets (I’m not sure any of his capital is in the team), he weighs the Chris Paul being on the Hornets and not making the trade against Chris Paul not being on the Hornets after making the trade. This begs two questions: what is the value of Chris Paul to this team during this final guaranteed year of this contract, and what sort of package needs to come in trade to outweigh that value?

Regarding value, is this on-the-court value or off-the-court value? Is this short-term value or long-term value? The great fear of Hornets fans, and I’m sure those on mahogany row in the franchise offices, is being left with little value should he leave in free agency after this shortened season.

Is this value actually resale value? Is Stern preserving the value of the franchise while the team is about to be sold, reportedly, in the next 60 – 100 days?

Does any trade give an acceptable value?

I’m sure there are other value questions, but I’ll leave this for now.

Stern’s involvement will either ensure a greater haul of assets than Demps thought he could get, at least in that one deal on Thursday, or the second on Saturday, force a trade of unknown value before the trade deadline, or prevent Mr. Paul from being traded at all. This last possibility brings me to me next point . . . and the detour before it . . .

Nietzsche wrote Twilight of the Idols as an introduction to his earlier work. It was alternately titled How to Philosophize with a Hammer. Well . . . in German, not English.

At any rate, the philosophizing with a hammer thing is actually where I got the bit up top about construction, destruction, etc., with my shout out to Derrida for all the post-modernist Hornets fans out there. Nietzsche looks to tear down old ways and build new ones over and over. He doesn’t try to provide answers so much as remove dogmatism and the framework for discussion can be held in a healthy way (yes, I think he’d pick that word . . . in German). This is sort of what I’m doing here: I’m not trying to figure out what will happen, just figure out why it happens.

The connection with the main title, however, is what got me thinking, actually.

It was reported shortly after the first veto that the trade was vetoed because Stern didn’t want superstars forcing their way from small markets. With the teams that Chris would most desire to play for filling up their cap space, is he losing his free agent destinations, at least those that can offer max deals? Will playing hardball with Chris result in him re-signing with the Hornets? Will he actually walk away from a fifth guaranteed year of a max deal without a team of superstars that we can walk on to?

In the larger sense, is Stern showing the small market teams how they should be acting? If the franchises play hardball, will the players blink? Miami prepared in a way no team had before or since to sign free agents. They were helped in their efforts by collected draft picks, enabling sign-and-trades and the use of cap exceptions. No team is set up for this now, and the free agent class may dwindle as extensions may be accepted prior to becoming a free agent.

If this is the case, and should it work, would this slow the recent run of superstars forcing their way from teams the ended up on following the draft to teams where they can team up with other superstars? Will this curb the rumor mills, and PR battles? Will this be the twilight of the NBA idols?

Competitive balance was repeated by the owners while the players stressed player movement. This trade challenges each side on its respective issue. The NBA may veto any deal on its way to making its point, and the NBPA may sue to make its point. All the while, much of the NBA trade world is waiting for a big move to be made that may never happen. Similarly, the Hornets . . . all 5 of them . . . are waiting to see who the other players will be.

I don’t know what’s going on, and maybe by the time this is read, all will be revealed, but I know one thing for sure right now:

It’s no fun being the hammer.

3 comments
StefanC
StefanC

Great article, Jason. I haven't bothered to look at the situation from this perspective. I've been too worried about who we will be getting in return for Paul.

L_REAZY
L_REAZY

I was sort of thinking the same thing. If not with New Orleans, what team would Paul sign with this off-season? It wouldn't be the Knicks or the Lakers, because they're capped out. Maybe the Warriors, Clippers, & Celtics but Chris Paul might be running out of options. So much for the CAA, and CP3 was the example! The Hornets need to fill out this damn roster. L_REAZY