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Benson saves the Hornets…but not in time

Tom Benson, The New Orleans Saints owner,  agreed to purchase the New Orleans Hornets on Friday. The NBA has been trying to sell the team since 2010 and Benson got the Hornets for $338 million. But, his purchase comes a little too late as the Hornets, who were owned by the NBA this past year, were devastated by a nixed trade in December that would’ve altered the dynamic of the league for years.

As some of you may remember, Chris Paul was reportedly traded to the Lakers in December, only to have the deal cancelled by David Stern, who just happened to be the current owner of Paul’s former team, the Hornets.The proposed trade would have sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and gifted New Orleans with legitimate  NBA stars in Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Lamar Odom as well as a proven back up point guard in Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick that Houston had acquired from the Knicks.

What about that deal seems sketchy? Why would David Stern cancel it? Because he owned the Hornets at the time and did not want the city to lose a superstar. Also, Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was rumored to have demanded a veto of the trade by “the 29 other owners of the Hornets,” referring to the owners of every other NBA team, since New Orleans was owned by the league. Gilbert was salty because LeBron had just rained on his parade and he did not want to see the rich get richer as the Lakers were about to land the league’s best point guard.

The vetoed trade devastated the teams, players and fans involved. It’s the reason why Lamar Odom lost his cool and disassembled in Dallas. It’s the reason Chris Paul playing in the other L.A. team’s uniform. The Clippers gave the Hornets Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu, along with Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first round pick. New Orleans did not receive a better deal from the Clippers in any sense. Anyone with basketball knowledge knows that Martin, Scola, Odom and Dragic are better than Gordon, Kaman, Aminu and a pick.

The only reason the Clippers deal went through is because Stern’s motives in nixing the Lakers deal were revealed by the media and players alike, and he couldn’t do it again. He realized that Chris Paul was leaving, one way or another. The Hornets are now 17-42, ranking 29th in the league in points per game. Kaman and the ex-Clippers were obviously not happy to be in New Orleans (as evidenced by the picture above, it looks more like a mug shot line up than a player introduction.)

Stern tried to explain his moves by saying, “I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job.” He went on to say, “you have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasn’t a lot of fun, but I don’t get paid to have fun.”

Well, Dave, we the fans don’t get paid to have fun either. In fact, we actually pay you to have fun, so that we can watch your teams and enjoy the players. Your job is to oversee the NBA and regulate the league. Your job is not to be invested in a particular team and attempt to keep a superstar is a small market. Stern should never have been invested in “doing the best thing for New Orleans” in the first place, he’s supposed to worry about the entire league, not one team. He didn’t even end up doing the best thing for New Orleans anyway.

There were obviously some ulterior motives involved there. Now the Hornets are dismal, the Clippers are just O.K. and the Lakers are doing all right, but not as good as they would be doing with Paul. The GMs of the Lakers deal worked extremely hard on developing a fair deal, only to get shut down by Stern, that deal was completely legitimate.

The bottom line is that a team should never be owned by a league, the team’s moves will always be questioned. There are mixed interests when the league’s commissioner owns a team, as evidenced by Paul trade. The sports world is full of “if, then” statements and questions, and now all we can do is wonder what would have happened if the Lakers acquired Paul. The Lakers would honestly be my favorite to go to the Finals from the West with Paul. I do not think a team with CP3, Kobe and Bynum could be stopped.

Tom Benson saved the Hornets, keeping them in New Orleans and hopefully salvaging the franchise. But, the Hornets were already devastated by Stern and the league as their motives back fired and left New Orleans in a rut. We’ll see what happens in the next few years, Chris Paul may not even re0sign with the Clippers when his deal is up. The NBA is surging right now, and Stern is lucky, because his big blunder is being covered up by the rising stars and rivalries of today’s NBA.

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