A Mess Made in Heaven
Imagine this thing actually happens.
Imagine the Hornets get their end of the proposed Chris Paul deal, Eric Bledsoe, Chris Kaman, Al Faroq-Aminu, Minnesota’s unprotected No.1 pick in 2012 and now, the reported last-second and (potentially) deal-saving throw-in, Eric Gordon. In other words: life support for a franchise on the precipice of being shafted into contraction, by
virtue of league office shenanigans that let a franchise cornerstone walk for nothing.
Imagine the Clippers get theirs, Chris Paul, Chris Paul and … wait for it … Chris Paul. In other words: solvency and relevance like they've never seen before and are instantly guaranteed to for foreseeable
future, forged at the intersection of 3,000 soon-to-be Paul-to-Blake Griffin alley oops. (Each of which will be immediately cut for Kia ads to air during the next possible commercial break.)
And imagine the deal goes through with the league office, and isn’t blown away like a clay pigeon by David Stern, metaphorical shotgun-in-hand, crazy-eyed and cackling like we’ve come to expect him
Let’s face it, people. New Orleans and Donald Sterling are the other has.
On the Hornets’ end, because they’re all outta options. Not only is the market devoid of any seeming buyer for Paul at the present time, but this whole charade—you know, one that involved angry letters from Dan Gilbert and surprising soapboxes from Mark Cuban, two of the unknown number of team owners who wrote and spoke out against last Thursday’s axed three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers—has scared the pants off anyone thinking about dipping their toes in.
(Except for, reportedly, the Lakers. Again. Only without Lamar Odom. Yeah. I know.)
Ultimately, if they this thing falls through, and Paul opts out of his contract at the end of this season and walks, they’re screwed. Like, “Warm The Presses For A ‘Sorry, New Orleans, We Don’t Have An NBA Franchise Anymore’ PSA” screwed.
On the Clippers’ end, well … OK. I guess they don’t really need Paul. Sterling has successfully built his iron-clad reputation of blunder with years of being persistently counterintuitive, somehow plummeting an L.A. franchise to the bottom barrel in terms of franchise value and competitiveness.
That is, a team appraised at $305 million in 2011 by Forbes, good for No. 22 in comparably inferior NBA (relative to the NFL, whose 22nd-most valuable team is the Titans, worth a reported $964 million).
That is, a team that’s made it only four playoffs in 31 years (six feet) under Sterling, and never past the Western Conference Semis.
But Sterling could certainly use this. Show me a core of Paul, Griffin and Caron Butler, serviceable role players in Billups and Mo Williams—plus whatever other acquisitions are in the works, but held
up amid looming uncertainty herein—and I’ll show you a team that’s bound for a better than their 32-50 record in 2010-11.
I’ll show you a team with great odds at mild success, maybe enough instant nostalgia to get Paul to sign an extension.
I’ll show you a team that has a future.
And, if you count the Hornets, I’ll show you two.
And all that—compatibility, entertainment, satisfaction, and most of all, ubiquitous hope—isn’t possible without the craziness that ensued over the weekend.
Kinda ironic, isn't it?
Imagine: Professional sports’ single-worst owner (Donald Sterling) and most awesomely bad debacle (the David Stern veto) being each other's saving graces. Imagine?
What a beautiful mess.
Or scheme. Yes, all the wrinkles in this absurdly pruny saga could be part of some eerie conspiracy. And no, the Giffin Factor—remember that Kia commercial I alluded to earlier? the one that aired 23
seconds after Griffin won the 2011 dunk contest, widely thought to be rigged after an All-Star Weekend Friday press release referred to Griffin as the “champ” 48 hours before the event?—doesn’t do anything
to satisfy skeptics if Paul does, in fact, land with the Clips.
But at this point, this deal—reportedly reignited Tuesday after the Clippers singed Chauncey Billups, making available Eric Gordon, the best up-and-coming shooting guard and perfect over-the-top piece—needs to happen.
And let’s not forget the third wheel here: the NBA. They need this trade more than anybody.
If not, the already lingering ill will from the lockout will be amplified, frying the league in “Casual Fan” popularity (the most important kind) like an ant under some soon-to-be serial killer’s magnifying glass.
If not, the prevailing sentiment of the already-abbreviated (which some people strangely think is a bad thing) will be resentment toward a meddling league and off-his-rocker commissioner.
If not, the league would’ve wasted the most profound opportunity for an industry of its kind—what they had in potentially same uber successful free agent period as the NFL did after its lockout ended in
June, but with the added fan appreciation that only 480 missed games can offer.
Like I said: “Need.”
Crazy as it sounds, this mess made in heaven might have a happy ending up its sleeve yet.
(This article was written by Matt Hammond of 97.3 ESPN)