Putting Stern’s Ownership in Perspective

Published: February 29, 2012

David Stern saved basketball in New Orleans, and it’s about damned time everyone acknowledged it.

One Yugo and a half eaten Krispy Kream for CP3? Sure. Just keep the Hornets in Nola.

Sometimes David Stern pisses me off, but in the end I still have endless love for him. Even if he traded Chris Paul for a half bag of stale donuts and a Yugo, I’d still think he was the man.

The Chris Paul trade situation got out of hand because he, as the commissioner, never made it clear to everyone involved what his role really was. At least that’s how it seems to me. Several national reporters, namely Chris Sheridan, want there to be some crazy conspiracy where the deal was blocked because Marc Cuban snuck into Stern’s house, dosed him with some with sweet LSD from the 70’s and then convinced him through harmonic hypnosis that there is a better way forward. But there’s a problem with this conspiracy theory, just like there is with most conspiracy theories.

It didn’t happen.

Stern also didn’t cave to pressure from other owners and back out of the agreement after it was finalized. Notice the Lakers brass didn’t come out of that incident screaming bloody murder? It’s because there was nothing really to scream about. There were some stern words, but nothing fitting of the accusations that were thrown around by reporters. Owners veto trades all the time, this one was just much more high profile and confusing. Because Stern held multiple roles, it allowed conspiracy theorists to run a muck and create an argument that had elements of truth. Sometimes that is all that is needed in this day of age.

But those who are more concerned with fact need simply look at the past to have a clearer view of what went down here. When you’re selling a team you want to relieve it of liabilities, not increase the amount of money owed in the future. Look back to the Okafor for Chandler trade that Charlotte did even though Chandler was injured. The same Chandler that was not cleared by OKC doctors just four months earlier, even though they were desperate for a big. That trade was done because Robert Johnson was getting rid of liabilities in anticipation of the upcoming sale. Among other reasons, this is presumably part of why Stern passed on the initial CP3 deal with the Lakers. That deal would have saddled the Hornets with nearly $70 million in additional salary, and did not have any young talent coming back with it (save for the immortal Goran Dragic!)

For this article though, it’s neither here nor there what has happened since Stern took control of the NBA, and the reality is that only complete failure or utter success in the next five years will really decide it conclusively. But again– none of what has happened since the NBA took the team from Shinn matters for the purpose of my thank you.

What I want to thank David Stern for is orchestrating the sale of the team somehow in which George Shinn didn’t get to offer the team up to the highest bidder. In all likelihood, the asking price would have been higher if the NBA hadn’t insisted on tying the sale to a long term lease agreement with the state.

I’m not sure how exactly he did it, but I imagine that the NBA and Stern can make a sale process take a looooooooooooong time if they want to. From what I recall, Shinn was having some financial problems and needed to sell the team ASAP. Perhaps that had something to do with how Stern pulled it off. Perhaps not. It doesn’t really matter either way, but that’s something that has occurred to me as a possibility recently, and if I don’t tell y’all who will I tell?

Almost every name that popped up originally when news that the Chouest sale fell through is now a distant memory thanks to Stern. Larry Ellison said he was interested in moving the team to San Jose, but that idea was shot down moments after it was brought up. There was also reported interest from business types in Vancouver, Kansas City, St. Louis, and Anaheim.

If all potential bidders could have bought the team and moved it, don’t you think it would have fetched a higher asking price than the 318 million or so that the NBA paid Shinn? The NBA could have very easily allowed that to happen, and knowing the national media the way us New Orleanians do, there’s no way that Stern or the league would have taken as much flack for it as they have for making the unprecedented decision to actually purchase the team and hold it for more than a year. People don’t even think we should have a team to begin with, remember? This isn’t Seattle.

I can’t say this with certainty, but I sincerely and firmly believe that if the NBA didn’t buy the team from Shinn when they did, the Hornets would either already be gone or on their way our of town shortly. I just don’t see how it would have played out any other way.

So thanks, David Stern, for ensuring that the Hornets remain in New Orleans not only for the next 10 years, but for the indefinite future. That is, at least until the Zumayun Aliens attack in 2064…

Editors Note: I was informed by a very reliable source at All-Star weekend that the Hou-LAL-NO trade never even approached the final stage, and that the Hornets were actually closer to dealing CP3 to Boston than the Lakers. This source claims that someone from either LA or Houston told reporters that the deal was done to put pressure on all parties to push it through. Then, when it wasn’t, they cried “Veto!” and made themselves look like victims. Take it for what you will.


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