The NBA, The Clippers, And Chris Paul

Note from Steve: I'm bumping citizen johnnyoc21's fine and frenetic recap of the week to the front page. Nicely done.

What a week.

Somewhere, there is someone who was away on a business trip, or perhaps was in another country and just returned home today with no idea about what took place in the NBA this week. Allow me to get you up to speed. (Deep breath) The Lakers traded Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom for Chris Paul in a three way deal with Houston, followed by the NBA/owners of the New Orleans Hornets rejecting the deal, leaving Chris Paul and his agent threatening to sue the league, the league then letting the three teams submit another deal with revisions, subsequently rejecting that deal, prompting the Lakers give up and trade Lamar Odom to conference rival and NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks to clear cap space. In the meantime, the Knicks waive starting pg and former NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups using their amnesty option, and signed Tyson Chandler (a very good pick up for them in my opinion, but taking them out of the running for Chris Paul) and rumor has it Dwight Howard is requesting to be traded to New Jersey, which I am fairly certain is the first time anyone has ever made that request (exhale). Before continuing I would like to apologize to my Freshman English teacher Mr. Colvin; those run- on sentences were for effect.

This week’s NBA soap opera has been nothing if not compelling, and the implications of this week’s events could potentially have the greatest impact on the Los Angeles Clippers. From the outset of this Chris Paul situation, the Clippers have been extremely interested, and appeared to be in the running (at least in terms of what they could offer). The problem for the Clippers, and several other teams for that matter, is that offering a package of players and picks for a player who is not willing to sign an extension is simply not realistic. Paul made it clear that his preferred destination was the Knicks, and that the Lakers were an acceptable second option. With the actions of the league this week, the Chris Paul to the Lakers deal appears to be dead, and the Knicks, as mentioned above, have nothing to offer to Chris Paul. Perhaps more importantly, neither the Knicks nor the Lakers appear to be in a position to sign Paul as a free agent next season. So what is Chris Paul’s next best option?

Its not just homer-ism that makes it seem like the Clippers are the best fit for Mr. P3. Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon are among the best young duos in the NBA, and both players project to continue improving. The athleticism of Griffin, Gordon, and RFA center Deandre Jordan, makes too much sense for Paul, perhaps the point guard of his generation. We all remember what a force the Hornets were when Paul had one athletic big man running the floor with him in Tyson Chandler (Just for fun, take a look at Paul's numbers from 2007-2008. Wow). At his disposal, Paul would have the most athletic frontcourt in basketball, with Eric Gordon and the newly acquired Caron Butler at the wings. That team would not only be explosive on the offensive end, but would also have the potential to be a solid defensive team. Chris Paul would make the Clippers better. What Paul needs to realize is that the Clippers would also make him better, and that he would have a chance to win for years to come.

Now for the bad news. The very thing that puts the Clippers in the running for Paul may also prevent them from having any chance. There has been some speculation that the league, after vetoing the trade to the Lakers, could not possibly allow the Hornets to trade Paul to another team. It’s a valid point, but it does depend on your perspective of how and why the league vetoed the deal in the first place. If your view is such that the league was acting at the behest of the small market teams and was simply trying to prevent the Lakers from acquiring Chris Paul ( and costing teams some money in the revenue sharing department), then it would certainly be inappropriate for them to then trade Paul to another team. After all, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom and some picks would have been a pretty nice haul, one you can at least try sell to your fan base after losing a beloved franchise player. But there is another side of the coin.

We can argue the merits of the NBA owning a franchise. It would not have taken a savant to see that the NBA owning and operating a team would lead to conflict of interest problems. The fact is this has been an inevitability from day one. But whether this should have ever happened is not really the issue. The NBA DOES own and operate the franchise, and ultimately, they have the final say on basketball decisions. Maybe the offer from the Lakers and Houston was a fair one, but you could certainly argue that it was not the best long term option for a team looking for a new owner. The talent they would have received would make New Orleans competitive, but not a favorite in the western conference, and certainly not long term. The Hornets have some bad contracts, namely Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor. They were not getting rid of either of these contracts in the league vetoed trade. The league allowed the teams to resubmit the deal with some changes, but ultimately it fell short of what the commissioner’s office deemed an acceptable return. The league may be wrong, but they are essentially arguing that the Franchise is better served by taking their chances on resigning Chris Paul (with the built in advantage of being able to offer him significantly more money) and giving a new owner the chance to rebuild with him. That doesn’t mean that they would not be open to a better deal.

Enter the Clippers, who are uniquely positioned to make a deal with the Hornets. Young players like Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman’s expiring contract, Mo Williams, and perhaps most importantly, the 2012 Minnesota Timberwolves First Rd Draft Pick put the Clippers on the radar. A combination of these assets coupled with the Clippers ability to take back either Okafor or Ariza, has to force Dell Demps, and more importantly Commissioner Stern, to give serious consideration to the offer. This has been true since day one, but with the Lakers and the Knicks now out of the picture, Paul has lost his leverage (I don’t think the league is at all worried about a law suit, they are acting within their rights in vetoing the trade, and you can’t prove that they are not acting in the interest of the Hornets). If CP3 really wants out of New Orleans, a trade still makes the most sense financially, and the Clippers Make the most sense for Paul as a player.

So welcome back from that trip or vacation. It’s been quite a week, and could end up being quite a season for the Clippers.

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