The Chris Paul fiasco gives NBA a black eye

The proposed Chris Paul trade to the Los Angeles Lakers has created a firestorm.

The Hornets, who are owned by the league which acquired it from George Shinn a year ago, realized it was unlikely they would be able to retain Paul with a contract extension or in free agency after he opted out of his contract after this season.

So New Orleans general manager Dell Demps, a respected player personnel man who came from the respected San Antonio Spurs, went to work, hoping to get something for Paul instead of nothing if he left in free agency. Or in Stern’s words, “Getting something more for that player in the event he will leave than if he stays.”

Demps, in his second year as GM of the Hornets, arranged a huge three-team trade with the Lakers and the Houston Rockets: Paul to the Lakers; Los Angeles forward Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Los Angeles forward Pau Gasol to the Rockets, who would have sent forward Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick to New Orleans.

Stern got serious pressure from a number of owners, including Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, who fired off a letter to Stern and other owners calling the trade a travesty.

This trade should go to a vote of the 29 owners of the Hornets.

Over the next three seasons this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes. That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing.

I cannot remember ever seeing a trade where a team got by far the best player in the trade and saved over $40 million in the process. And it doesn’t appear that they would give up any draft picks, which might allow to later make a trade for Dwight Howard.

The teams are still talking in an attempt to salvage the deal and they have appealed Stern’s decision.

Meanwhile, Stern and the NBA are being savaged by commentators everywhere. Here’s Bill Simmons and Micheal Wilbon.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Spears: Would the Cavs win the D-League championship?

I took some grief for having the Cavs ranked dead last in our NBA preview, but after a decent 7-9 start, the Cleveland has lost 30 of its last 31 games and has the worst record in the league.

In the video clip below, Yahoo! Sports Marc Spears and Greg Anthony talk about how the Cavs rebuild. At one point, Spears wonders if the Cavs would win the D-League championship:

Some might write of Spears’ comments as a joke, but he said he wasn’t “clowning,” and that the roster is that bad.

Of course the Cavs would win the D-League championship, and it’s an insult to imply that they wouldn’t. Antawn Jamison is a two-time All-Star and Mo Williams made the All-Star game in 2009. J.J. Hickson and Anderson Varejao are two pretty good bigs.

Perhaps Spears was talking about the team as it stands, with Williams and Varejao both sidelined with injuries. This roster would still win the D-League, but on any given night, they could have a tough time with a D-League team. Right now, the Cavs are starting Ramon Sessions, Manny Harris, Christian Eyenga, Jamison and Hickson, with Anthony Parker, Daniel Gibson and Samardo Samuels getting most of the minutes off the bench. This roster would have a few tough nights in a 50-game D-League schedule.

In terms of rebuilding, the Cavs are going to have a tough time attracting a big name free agent after Dan Gilbert’s scathing letter about LeBron after “The Decision.” The letter may have won the hearts of Cavs fans everywhere, but it’s not going to appeal to a free agent looking for a new home. They need to blow up the roster, and that means trading away their three best assets — Jamison, Williams and Varejao — for prospects and/or draft picks. For the Cavs to become a playoff team again, they need to draft really, really well, and strike gold when they have the opportunity to overpay a free agent. That means giving a max deal to a guy who isn’t deserving, but eventually that player grows into his contract. It’s an unlikely scenario, but it’s one that the Cavs have to be counting on if they are hoping to make the postseason anytime soon.

LeBron kicks the Cavs while they’re down

The Cavs have the worst record in the league (8-30), and after they lost by 55 points to the Lakers on Tuesday, LeBron James tweeted…

So according to LeBron, God is punishing the Cavs (via karma, mind you) for wrongdoings that occurred after “The Decision.”

I foresee a sh*tstorm of criticism today at which point LeBron will release a statement/tweet that either a) refers to all critics as “haters,” b) claims that the tweet was not about the Cavs, or c) all of the above.

Rotoworld’s take: “[LeBron] has proven once again to have one of the most inept group of handlers known in the superstar athlete era.”

The Return of LeBron: Reaction

Brian Windhorst, ESPN: Before the game several Cavs, including former friend Mo Williams, shunned James as he tried to come over to the bench to greet them. During the first half, James wandered over to talk to the bench only to have several players completely ignore him. Others, including friend Daniel Gibson, treated it like it was 2009 as they chatted James up. By the third quarter, when James was on fire and the game was getting out of hand, the only reaction came from Anderson Varejao, who swiped James’ headband off his head and tossed it aside when James was brazen enough to again step over to his favorite spot. “I really didn’t see that,” Cavs coach Byron Scott said, perhaps trying to be pragmatic on a night when his team had many other problems to examine. It is hard to believe that Scott, a veteran of the Celtics-Lakers wars, could endorse such behavior.

Terry Pluto, Cavaliers fans certainly dealt with the return of LeBron James to Cleveland with far more class than the defending Most Valuable Player handled his move to Miami. That’s a credit to this these fans and this city. It’s probably a downer to some in the national media who arrived in town for Thursday night’s game much like that ghoulish segment of fans who attend auto races hoping for a major crash. After all, we are supposed to be the land of the Great Unwashed, where people still live in caves, killing dinosaurs for dinner and then eating them with our bare hands. Beer Night, Bottlegate and general ugliness is supposed to rule in this cultural wasteland.

Israel Gutierrez, The Miami Herald: Cleveland fans got their say, taking their first chance to personally tell LeBron how betrayed they felt. And, for a while, they actually were convinced the whole “One for All. All for One” team motto actually meant something, that this Cavaliers team can survive just fine with Joey Graham trying to replace LeBron in the lineup. It didn’t take long, though, for the fans to recognize what had gotten away, that no matter how much they hate their former King, it doesn’t compare to how much they miss him. By halftime, James wasn’t quietly going about his business. He was smiling for fans with cameras as his teammates warmed up. He danced in the area just in front of the Cavs bench. And once that second half began, he was just as much toying with his former team and showing off for his former fans as he was performing for the Heat. Of his season-best 38 points, 24 came in that third quarter, tying a Heat record for points in a quarter. And LeBron loved every second of it. James left Cleveland showing no loyalty. He came back showing no regrets. Why should he? Look what he left behind.

Mike Wallace, ESPN: James’ night was through after the third quarter, so the only suspense remaining was to see how much he would hear and see from fans from his seat on the bench as the final 12 minutes of the game played out. To James’ credit, he largely ignored the chaos that started when someone threw a battery from the stands that landed right in front of the Heat’s bench. That drew a warning from the public address announcer. The battery was thrown right around the time when a man apparently tried to rush the court from one of the tunnels leading to it but was picked off by a security officer, which led to a scuffle. As the Heat’s lead grew, so did the craziness in the stands. One fan wearing a Heat jersey was showered with cups of beer in the upper deck. He didn’t duck. Instead, he basked in the beer until he was escorted out. Then came towel man. Maverick Carter, James’ business manager, left his courtside seat moments later and had to be escorted through the crowd by three bodyguards. James, meanwhile, was oblivious to his surroundings. Or at least he did a remarkable acting job. The “Delonte West” chants didn’t affect him. The “Akron Hates You” barbs didn’t make him crack. He simply sat, pointed a few times at familiar faces in the crowd and shared some inside jokes with Wade on the bench.

The Return of LeBron

Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) walks up court with teammates guard Eddie House (55) and forward Chris Bosch after a time out in the second half of the opening night game against the Boston Celtics at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on October 26, 2010.  UPI/Matthew Healey Photo via Newscom

LeBron James and the Miami Heat visit Cleveland tonight (8 PM ET on TNT). Here’s a sampling of how the media is handling his return.

Pat McManamon, FanHouse: James himself could take one step to not inflaming an emotional crowd: He could bypass his usual chalk toss before the game. Shaquille O’Neal quipped that the Celtics were betting James would not do it, and James’ teammate Dwyane Wade said he would. Wisdom might dictate he take a pass, this time… James can come out a winner if he plays well and Miami wins. If the Heat dominate, they could even silence the crowd. A little. The Cavs could come out winners if they win the game. They’re supposed to lose, but if they give their city and fans an emotional victory it would be briefly uplifting to a beleaguered area. The one entity that can lose the most, though, would be the city of Cleveland. And that would happen if a fan goes past the boundaries that are established and embarrasses the city. Cleveland’s weather was gray and cold Wednesday, about the same as its economic mood. Embarrassment on national TV Thursday night would hurt more, and it only takes one person. Cleveland has a choice how it wants to handle the situation. Its fans have the choice how they want to be remembered. Expressing emotion is one thing, exacting revenge foolishly would only mean the fans are putting themselves beneath the level James took with his “decision.” And they drag a city down with them.

Joe Posnanski, I guess this is the part that surprises me: The Miami Heat are boring. I didn’t expect that. When LeBron announced that he would join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami, I did not know exactly what to expect, but I expected something electrifying. Maybe the Heat would be great, a new kind of superpower, designed by three players who decided it might be kinda fun to get together and change the world. Maybe the Heat would spectacularly crash into themselves like a black hole of egos. Maybe the Heat would come together to give us a kind of basketball we only see in the rarest of moments, like when Michael Jordan’s Bulls were at their height or when the various Dream Teams played at their most inspired. The possibilities seemed endless. And, I don’t know, for me, the possibilities no longer seem endless. The Heat play boring basketball. They win games in a boring fashion and lose them in boring ways. They have no inside presence. They do not move the ball around well. They generally beat bad teams. They generally lose to good ones. They play pretty well at home. They play pretty lousy on the road. They may yet come together, but I don’t think it’s inevitable, and I don’t think it’s even likely. James and Wade are great players, two of the five best in the world, and the expectation is that they would make magic together. But it turns out that they are the same kind of player, and when they are on the floor together, the result is less magic and more like a dance-off.

Andrew Sharp, SB Nation: What LeBron did this year, though… All of this has actually happened. No embellishment necessary. His blatant disappearing act against the Celtics in this year’s playoffs. Then the press conference after that game, where he blamed himself—not for playing poorly, but for playing so well in other games that he’d “spoiled” us and created unrealistic expectations among fans and media. A few weeks later, there was the media tour during the NBA Finals, when, while Kobe Bryant chased his fifth ring, LeBron met with Larry King. And of course, the free agency whirlwind and his ESPN special, which speaks for itself by now. Although as ridiculous as that spectacle seemed, everyone always forgets about the welcome party/rock concert/victory parade they held in Miami a few days afterward. Later in July, we got the outstanding LeBron-in-Vegas story from ESPN. Until, an hour after it was posted, the 2,000-word glance into his world mysteriously disappeared. As the season approached, we finally heard LeBron play the race card. Around the same time, we found out ESPN would create its own bureau dedicated to covering his new team. When he shared some of the racist messages he receives on Twitter, his attempt to play the victim came off ambiguous at best, and attention-starved at worst. Now, the Heat have stumbled to a 11-8 start before his triumphant return to Cleveland, just to ensure everyone finally understands exactly how ridiculous this charade has been all along.

Kelly Dwyer, Ball Don’t Lie: Cleveland, and northern Ohio, were wronged. And LeBron James was wrong. In every regard save for wanting to play with more talented teammates. But that’s where it has to end, fans. You were wronged, no doubt about it, but it’s not time to sink to James’ level, and be wrong. Cavalier fans have the goodwill of a nation on its side, but that will only sustain with good intentions. The second that any fan turns Thursday night’s basketball game into anything more than a basketball game, that goodwill disappears, for good reason, forever. Sure, we’ll know why someone did whatever they did, but that doesn’t mean it’s to be tolerated or explained away. No matter how pathetic, narcissistic, clueless, and uncaring the heel in question is. No amount of booing will make the hurt and frustration go away for these fans, but then again no amount of anything will make that hurt and frustration go away. Get in three quick pops while Jamario Moon(notes) holds James’ hands behind his back, chuck a quarter at him after holding it over a lit lighter, or come up with the nastiest “TNT” acronym you can on a poster board. It won’t make it any better.

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