The Los Angeles Clippers followed up after getting their first proposal nixed by Stern and company by getting out of the fray, realizing that they were compromising their future success by including players like Eric Gordon in the trade possibilities. In turn, the NBA is now actively trying to revive a deal with them, hoping not to lose out on yet another one of the few landing spots for Paul as of this writing.
Billionaires vs. millionaires doesn’t even come close to describing the power play that was occurring behind the scenes in the NBA this fall. Stern was so pompous, so boneheadedly determined to recoup owners lost cash, and so head-scratchingly back pedaling in the end, that when Deron Williams called him a bully the other day, the collective basketball world didn’t even flinch. Many nods were recorded.
Why is Stern a bully? Because of the NBA dress code. Because basketball related income for players is now 51.5 percent — after being 57 percent under the previous labor deal. Because Stern often derides players, as if they’re children, to better educate themselves on matters of importance. Because the lawyer in him is so unrelenting that he almost lost an NBA season, much to the satisfaction of his bosses and the dissatisfaction of NBA fans.
So after handing down take it or leave it deals to NBA players in the last month, including a 50-50 and 51-49 take on basketball related income in favor of the owners, Stern turned on the charm for two days and the deal got done.
Silly Stern, didn’t he know that he could’ve had that deal a month ago? Why of course not. To reach a deal over the NBA lockout, Stern had to push the players to the brink … stripping them of every dime, nickel and penny that he could recover for his 29 bosses. Only when he realized the players had a backbone, de-certifying their union in preparation for a suit against the league, did he change strategy and relax his death grip on the season.
Flash forward to the NBA’s fastened free agency period. Rumors of a Paul trade had been surfacing for months because of Paul’s unwillingness to re-sign with the Hornets. It’s a deadbeat franchise. With no NBA owner there, and no incentive to invest without one, the franchise is in a coma.
In making a deal for Paul, Hornets general manager — or should I say, general chump? Because that’s definitely how he’s being treated — Dell Demps knows he has to prepare for a future without his franchise player. Much like Dwight Howard and the Magic, or Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets last year, the idea behind a trade of your best player is to get compensation for him while he’s still under contract, rather than get screwed and get nothing when he walks at the end of said contract.
Somehow, the entire sports world understands this simplicity.
Here are some facts: Two deals were put on the table — both of which were very fair — and both were shot down by Stern. Not by Demps, who put them together, but by the big bad NBA commissioner. Stern even went so far as to say he made these decisions, particularly in blocking Paul’s trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, “free from the influence of other NBA owners.” So he’s in the spigot himself here.
He called the trade to the Lakers a bad one for basketball related reasons. After the Lakers dropped out of the running for Paul, he then went on and directed his executives to shake down the Clippers for everything they have. When they pulled out — for obvious reasons — he then directed his executives, taking Demps out of the equation, to revive the deal.
None of this makes any sense.
In the weird, twisted world of the NBA, negotiations can appear disheveled and even aimless in approach. But make no mistake about it, with Stern on board as a direct stakeholder in the Hornets’ future, the confusion and comatose nature of the franchise will only heighten with the NBA as its owner.
And then Stern will relent, unapologetically, and accept a deal for lesser value. It could have been done a week ago, but that’s just too easy.
Before the finals started, David Stern addressed the media and discussed LeBron James and how James apologized for his actions. He was fined $25,000. Read it and view it here.
The biggest, baddest, fastest player in the NBA — who happens to be the league’s MVP — is all sour grapes because he can’t win an NBA championship. And in the the throes of losing, tasting defeat, and generally getting his feelings hurt, LeBron James has forgotten what it feels like to be a man and say “good game” while looking his triumphant opponents in the eye.
There is a cultural shift going on in the NBA of wussified, whiny and flat out disrespectful multi-millionaires running exceedingly rampant and carefree. And if the NBA’s caretaker, David Stern, is even slightly concerned (which he is), he would rethink not punishing James for leaving the court without congratulating the Orlando Magic and without speaking to the media.
Forget the media, he should have at least shook hands with the Magic.
Within hours of this debacle, the questioning and rumors poured in from all four corners of the country. How can King James be the face of the league if he can’t be a good sportsman? There is serious concern that this top-tier athlete, who is possibly bigger than the sport itself with crossover appeal into pop culture, is an absolutely atrocious role model for amateur players. Why? Because at the height of his popularity, his most-watched moment and the game’s most-watched moment, he is suddenly a classless character.
After emerging from his own world of self-pity and reflection, he didn’t help his cause. In his words:
“It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them,” he said. “I’m a winner. It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m a competitor. That’s what I do. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.”
He is a poor sport. He just defined bad sportsmanship. He just defined what it means to be a playground wussy.
I can rant, I can scream, and I can smack around James in this space all I want, but it will all go to waste if folks don’t turn to their youngsters, their teammates and their own players, and say point-blankly, “James is wrong.”
Humility is necessary in sports. It’s actually what makes this section I write in great. The greatest lesson any prep, Little League or AAU coach can teach their players is a simple one: Be gracious when you win and when you lose.
It’s a form of “do unto others as those would do unto you.” This little golden nugget is what puts character in the backbones of those that play sports. Kids learn teamwork, how to work hard, focus, and how to deal with failure. Again, it’s all character building.
For someone like James, who is a huge role model for his own peers, to be at odds with the basics is downright blasphemous on these holy pages. It screams unconstitutional in terms of sportsmanship. It screams of hypocrisy for the man willing to take the gracious nods of greatness and defiantly ignore its responsibilities.
That’s why I’m so sickened. This man needs to be corrected. He needs to sit at home, watch the NBA Finals, and see how true champions play.
It’s why he’s not ready for greatness.
Next time you lose a game, no matter how hotly contested, turn to your competitor and say “good game.” Respect flows in the heat of competition, but it is cemented when the battle is over.
Don’t screw with that mojo.
Editor’s note: This column originally appeared in The Union.