I used to do this semi-regularly, and I figure now is as good a time as any to try again. While in the age of twitter and constant media updates many of you might be getting the "latest" from the press in real time, the vast majority of NBA commentary and news isn't being produced or shared on "social media." So I'm going to try to provide some links to the best news and opinions produced recently. Consider it "Rockets Digest" (but I won't call it that because that's dumb). At least for today it will be somewhat short and narrowly-focused (my focus in basketball has been fairly narrow over the past few days, after all), but in the future I hope to provide broader links.
Anyways, the big story from today, I suppose, is the almost-but-not-quite-and-maybe-not-almost-at-all Clippers-Hornets trade for Chris Paul. The Clippers were considered "frontrunners" in the race to get CP3 after the Rockets-Lakers-Hornets deal finally died. Now, less than 48-hours later, the deal is dead again and the Clippers are reportedly completely done with talking to the Hornets. Oh, did I write "Hornets?" I meant "the NBA." Woj has more:
While there’s been no official transition of power, general manager Dell Demps has been completely pushed to the side in deal-making decisions for the Hornets, multiple league sources told Y! Sports.
"He’s basically a spectator now," one official said.
Stern has two of his top league office executives – Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson – making calls and conducting negotiations with teams interested in Paul. Demps is still making calls, but rival front offices and agents involved in possible deals with New Orleans say that he’s no longer authorized to decide on any transaction.
Agents are finding it increasingly difficult to negotiate even minor deals with the Hornets’ front office. They’re struggling to get clear answers amid the belief that Demps doesn’t have the authority to make even minor signings to augment a depleted, non-NBA-caliber roster beyond the starting five.
"Stern has made them inoperable," one prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports. "I’ve given up trying to do anything with them until the Paul situation is resolved. It’s very unfair to Dell. … Very unfair what the league is doing to him right now."
This is an interesting development, to say the least. I think as long as the NBA was letting Demps do his thing, there was some semblance that Stern and Jackson (yes, that Stu Jackson) were simply "vetoing" trade ideas that would harm the Hornets in the long run. But when the league has virtually taken over the negotiations, it certainly seems like they're shutting Demps out to avoid the further embarassment of another vetoed trade -- an inevitability only if you have no real interest in trading Chris Paul for anything but the most obscene of values. If you just want Demps to cut payroll in preparation for the team's sale, then that certainly can be conveyed to Demps and he can probably make that happen. If you just want Chris Paul to turn into some draft picks and a young player or two, that could happen as well. But right now, it really seems like those are just convenient covers for Stern's more likely goal of simply avoiding the inevitable outrage that would occur if Chris Paul is traded to a major market.
Why hasn't Demps resigned by now? Is he afraid that he'll lose any future job prospects if he leaves? The impression we've gotten so far is that he's, at the very least, a pretty savvy general manager, able to turn four-five months of Chris Paul into an All-Star, two quality starters, and a decent backup point guard. Surely he's only damaging his reputation by sticking around this circus, right? So that's our poll for today: If you were Dell Demps, would you resign?
More on Chris Paulgate 2011 (and other stories) after the jump.
As a counterpoint to all the above, here's Beckley Mason at Hardwood Paroxysm:
Lamar Odom, Louis Scola and Kevin Martin are all very good players. If they are your team’s best players, you might win about 44 games, or exactly as many as New Orleans won last year. You wouldn’t quite be a lock for the playoffs, but there’s a chance you could get hot, score a ton, and scare the bejesus out of the third seed.
But what’s the long term plan, there? Adding those three players represents about $30 million dollars for 2011-12, and at least $21 mil in 2012-13. The franchise itself is expected to sell for around $320 million, so we’re talking about a tenth of the franchise value in three players that aren’t stars, young, or getting better. That’s not a huge incentive for a potential buyer, and it’s rumored that the Hornets will be sold sooner rather than later.
Adding those three players would make the Hornets pretty good again next year, but in two more seasons, they’d be pretty much where they are now, except without major pieces to trade.
It’s a short term non-solution to a long term problem: how do you build a consistent winner in a small market? The answer isn’t by getting older and more expensive by adding the type of players who max our their value as complementary pieces along side the likes of Chris Paul.
I think this is a good point -- the original three-team trade was decidedly more short-term-oriented than the proposed Clippers trade. But, with that said, it seems to me that the original trade was still better. Scola, Odom, and Martin could all be flipped to contenders at the deadline -- they are each exactly the sort of players that teams are looking to add for a playoff run. So if you are able to grab young players and picks from teams at the deadline for each of those guys, I think that greatly outweighs the value of the proposed Clippers deal (the best pieces of which would appear to have been Al-Farouq Aminu, Kaman's expiring contract, maybe Bledsoe, and the T-Wolves' 2012 pick -- Eric Gordon was reportedly "untouchable"). We have to assume that, just as the Lakers and Rockets weren't about to be finished dealing for the year after the original trade went down, neither were the Hornets.
Last piece on Chris Paul, I promise.
Steve Perrin over at our SBN sister-site Clips Nation has the Clippers' reaction to the balked trade. Head on over if you want to see what being jilted looks like from the third-person view.
In other stars-demanding-trades news, it looks like Dwight Howard might not be traded right now:
"As of a right now, I have on a Magic uniform. … If it’s meant for me to stay here, then I’ll stay," Howard said. "I love this city and there’s no place I’d rather be than Orlando. I just want to make sure that we have the right things here so we can win a championship. And I’m all about change. If you’re willing to change and willing do what it takes to win, then you’ve got me.
"You only get one time around the track. There’s no reset button. You don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to win," Howard added. "You gotta do what it takes to win."
Martins said that despite Howard’s claim Sunday that none of his input has been taken into account by management in regards to what changes he’d like to see the Magic make, that the trade for Boston big man Glen "Big Baby" Davis was one they did do.
"It’s a conversation," Martins said. "It’s not a be all, end all. And I do think that Dwight’s input is important and we’re gonna continue to solicit Dwight’s input. But, the final decisions rest on Otis. Otis is the head of this basketball operation. And he is the only one that knows how all the pieces will fit together properly. And he can solicit input from anyone and he will solicit input.
I can't see Howard being moved before the deadline. Unlike Paul, he won't need time to work with his new teammates and get in rhythm. A center's job -- particularly the job of one such as Dwight -- doesn't rely upon the other players quite so much, and he doesn't dominate the ball nearly as much as Paul. So Howard's value at the deadline will likely be higher than Paul's, anyways. He also seems a little less demanding in which city he plays in.
Dwight wanted to be traded to the Nets just a few days ago, and now we might know why: soon-to-be Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has announced his candidacy for president of the Russian Federation:
The announcement Monday by Mikhail Prokhorov underlines the extent of the discontent with Putin, who has dominated Russian politics for a dozen years— first as president, then as prime minister.
It is unclear how effective a challenger Prokhorov might prove to be. His wealth, estimated by Forbes magazine at $18 billion, and his playboy reputation may turn off voters who resent the gargantuan fortunes compiled by tycoons even as countless Russians struggled through the economic chaos of the 1990s after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Yes, that might be a problem. Russians, if you don't know, really, really resent the '90s.
I wonder what the policy on foreign heads-of-state owning NBA teams is?
Despite Chauncey Billups making it very clear that he will destroy anyone who attempts to claim him in the amnesty auction, Woj reports that not only have there been multiple bids -- the Clippers appear to have bid the highest. He also states that they will play him, however, so maybe that will make Chauncey happy. Maybe.
Also, what the hell is going on with Donald Sterling? Matching DeAndre Jordan's offer sheet, spending money on multiple free agents, and now going for Billups in the auction. Times appear to be changing in Clippers land.
Of course I guess we could have said the same thing about six or seven years ago.
Not basketball-related, but still interesting: the MLBPA has instituted a new dress code. I don't really care too much about that (I kind of approve, actually. Wouldn't life be better if we all just dressed in suits and ties? No? Maybe I'm just a formal person), but Grantland's Charles Pierce has some great criticism of the BBWAA types in there. Maybe what made me like the piece is just this bit about the politics of press boxes:
It is an exercise of control, of course. The baseball press box is an odd beast. It is owned by the team, but regulated by the local BBWAA, which is why you get that announcement before every game to the effect that "This is a working press box. No laughing or cheering, etc." Which is good as far as it goes, which is occasionally too far. (I was once nearly removed from the press box at Fenway for the capital offense of laughing too loudly at the Cleveland Indians.) Occasionally, MLB feels compelled to yank the leash so the BBWAA knows who's really in charge. Generally, the BBWAA comes to heel. This is one of those times.
As well as the (apparently continuing) old-media/new-media divide:
"We just thought it was time to get a little organized, to put it in place before there was an incident," committee member Phyllis Merhige, an MLB senior vice president, told the AP. "There's no one who expects reporters to wear a suit and tie. But with the advent of different media, there are now individuals who are not part of a bigger organization that may have a dress code."
In other words, OMIGOD, BLOGGERS! RUN AND HIDE! THEY COULD BE NAKED!
It reminds me of this excellent bit from Hunter S. Thompson's (excellent and under-read) Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72:
"How about Jackson?" I asked
This made for a pause... but finally Draper said the National Youth Caucus might support Jackson, too, "if he comes around."
"Around to what?" I asked. And by this time I was feeling very naked and conspicuous. My garb and general demeanor is not considered normal by Washington standards. Levis don't make it in this town; if you show up wearing Levis they figure you're either a servant or a messenger. This is particularly true at high-level press conferences, where any deviation from standard journalistic dress is considered rude and perhaps even dangerous.
In Washington all journalists dress like bank tellers -- and those who don't have problems. Mister Nixon's press handlers, for instance, have made it ominously clear that I shall not be given White House press credentials. The first time I called, they said they'd never even heard of Rolling Stone. "Rolling what?" said the woman.
"You'd better ask somebody a little younger," I said.
And you thought this shit was new.
Okay, I lied, one more thing about the Chris Paul trade, but it's a good one. Courtesy of Basketbawful, more from Dan Gilbert:
Anyway, back to the issue at hand. F*** the Lakers. They're even setting themselves up to go get Dwight Howard after securing Chris Paul, and if you think that's competitive balance, then maybe I've forgotten the definition of it since we "resolved" this lockout situation. Some idiots might say that's all "good, forward-thinking team management," or "a willingness to give up talent to get talent," but those people didn't get massively hammered in the keister by LeBron's gigantic ramrod. No seriously - again, not about me - I bought stock in Vaseline right after the "Decision," and am quite happy I did.