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.

Late trades punctuate crazy trade deadline

The trade deadline ended at 3 PM ET Thursday, but that doesn’t mean the news of just-completed trades is going to stop coming in. Here are a few deadline deals that broke just before or after the league cutoff.

Blazers acquire Gerald Wallace. (Ken Berger,
The Bobcats get Dante Cunningham, Joel Przybilla and two first round picks. Since Przybilla’s deal is expiring, this is a salary dump for Charlotte. They’ll come away with Cunningham and two first rounders out of the deal. Wallace can play either forward spot, so he could play alongside LaMarcus Aldridge and Nicolas Batum if the Blazers want to play small ball.

Nate Robinson and Kendrick Perkins to OKC for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Y! Sports)
Interesting trade for the Thunder, who are going to have trouble shooting the ball if they start Perkins, Serge Ibaka and Thabo Sefolosha. They’ll have plenty of size down low and appear to be gearing up for a potential matchup with the Lakers and/or Spurs. Perkins is widely regarded as one of the best defensive centers in the league and Ibaka is no slouch either. The C’s must feel like they have plenty of size with Shaq and Glen Davis, who usually finishes games for Doc Rivers. Green will back up Paul Pierce and/or Kevin Garnett. Krstic is a serviceable center as well, and there are rumors that Boston will be looking to add Troy Murphy if he clears waivers.

Aaron Brooks to Phoenix for Goran Dragic. (Marc Stein, ESPN)
Brooks was thought to be a cornerstone of Houston’s youth movement, but one temper tantrum and one suspension later and he’s on his way to the Suns for Dragic, who was thought to be the point guard of the future in Phoenix once Steve Nash moved on. But Dragic’s three-point shot has disappeared (28% this year after 39% last season) and his numbers are down as a result. If he gets back to form, the 24-year-old could be a steal — and the Rockets got a first round pick to boot.

Rockets send Shane Battier to Memphis for Hasheem Thabeet. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo! Sports)
The Rockets get another first round pick as part of this deal. Thabeet isn’t ready for prime time, but maybe the Rockets still see potential in him. Battier’s contract is expiring and he obviously wasn’t in Houston’s long-term plans so they got what they could for him. The first round pick should be useful, even if Thabeet is not.

In another trade that “almost-was,” O.J. Mayo was going to be moved to the Pacers for Josh McRoberts and a first round pick, but the NBA didn’t receive the fax in time, so the trade was nullified. Insert Michael Heisley joke here.

Take Sasha Vujacic…please!

Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Lakers are trying to move Sasha Vujacic:

Sources said Lakers are trying to trade Sasha Vujacic wfirst round pick to get his salary off books. They tried to do it for Delonte West.

IMO, Vujacic is hands down the most annoying player in the league. If I were running a team, the Lakers would have to include Pau Gasol or his girlfriend, Maria Sharapova, in the deal to get me to take on his contract/personality.

After a reasonably decent 2007-08 — 8.8 ppg, 44% 3PT — Sasha averaged 2.8 ppg and 31% from 3PT last season. The only productive thing he did all year was get under Goran Dragic’s skin in the Suns series, and even that almost backfired.

Obligatory pics (of Maria) after the jump, of course.

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Goran Dragic vs. Sasha Vujacic

Is there anything better than two Slovenians continuing their personal rivalry in Game 6 of the NBA Western Conference Finals?

The Suns were on life support, down 17 in the fourth quarter, when Dragic came into the game, hit a jumper and started to talk some sh*t to Vujacic, who has some problems with Dragic over the fact that he (Vujacic) was dismissed from the Slovenian national team. Vujacic lost his cool and elbowed Dragic in the face, and it turned into a six-point play. Suns down 11 with 11:11 to play.

Kobe on the squabble:

Still, Bryant, who led the Lakers with 37 points, did not take kindly to Vujacic’s flagrant foul playing a role in Phoenix’s rally. In an interview with TNT immediately after the game, Bryant said he wanted to “kill” Vujacic after what he did and still wanted to “kill him” even though the Lakers won.

So what did Dragic say? Vujacic, who we all know is not to be trusted, said the following:

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WCF Game 6: I’m on Team Goran

The Lakers may have won, 111-103, thanks to some incredibly clutch shots from Kobe Bryant (37-6-2) in the fourth quarter, but the rivalry between fellow Slovenians Goran Dragic and Sasha Vujacic (sort of) stole the show. The Suns were on life support, down 17 in the fourth quarter, when Dragic came into the game, hit a jumper and started to talk some sh*t to Vujacic, who has some problems with Dragic over the fact that he (Vujacic) was dismissed from the Slovenian national team. Vujacic lost his cool and elbowed Dragic in the face, and it turned into a six-point play. Suns down 11 with 11:11 to play.

The Suns eventually cut it to three with 2:18 to play, but Kobe hit two impossible shots, a 23-footer with 1:59 to play (and two guys in his face) to push the lead to five and a very contested 21-footer with 0:35 to play to push the lead to seven. Game over.

So we have a rematch of the 2008 Finals — Lakers vs. Celtics. There is plenty on the line for both teams, but I expect Kobe and the Lakers will come out very motivated to avenge the Finals loss two years ago.

On a side note, no one can question what Ron Artest has brought to the table in this series. After his timely game-winning put back in Game 5 and his 10-for-16, 25-point, three-steal effort in Game 6, I doubt there are too many Laker fans wishing that Trevor Ariza was still on the team.

Be sure to check back on Monday for my writeups about where the Suns (and Magic) go from here.

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