Chris Paul. Widely considered the best point guard in the NBA today, and the best leader in the association to boot. As most Laker fans are aware, the purple and gold made a trade for him as the lockout came to an end in December of 2011, only to have then Commissioner David Stern veto the trade. Stern was acting as owner of the then NBA owned New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans), on the wishes of multiple NBA owners, most notably Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers. As we are all well aware, Paul still happened to make his way to Los Angeles, but to suit up for the other NBA franchise that calls Los Angeles – as well as Staples Center – home. Those now high octane and high flying Los Angeles Clippers have enjoyed every moment of it.
The NBA’S fear of the trade happening was that the lockout had just ended, and here were the Lakers doing what they always do, using their money and glamour to get any star player they want, which was one of the things that the NBA wanted to end as a result of the work stoppage and the new CBA. The threat of the Lakers trading for Chris Paul, and then a next move in trading for Dwight Howard, and having a Big Three of Kobe Bryant, Howard and Paul to dominate for the upcoming five or more years was tantalizing lyrics close. As a fan I was thinking “the front offices of the Hornets, Lakers and Rockets have all agreed to make this trade happen, so how is Commissioner Stern stepping in and saying he is acting as owner of the Hornets to not allow the trade to happen? Dell Demps, the man you made GM of the team, is making a deal that he thinks is best for the franchise.”
Looking back on it, as a Lakers fan it just feels like this veto was the start of the downfall of the franchise, to the lottery bound team the Lakers ended up becoming. Granted they traded for Steve Nash, a trade most fans now hate, but a move that at the time looked like an amazing deal. Followed up by still managing to trade for Dwight Howard, as a fan I was just thinking, “ok so we get Nash and Howard, as well as keep Pau, in exchange for losing out on CP3. Not a bad back up plan at all”.
CRASH! Nash broke his leg in the second game of the season, and was never what the Lakers or the fan base hoped and thought he would be throughout his time as a Laker. Dwight was hurt all year, but went out and played damn good basketball considering he should have sat out till about February. It truly just feels like it gave the Clippers instant success, and the Lakers are still battling their way back from the shock of not being able to put together an all-time back court with Kobe and Paul, matched with eventually landing Dwight as a force in the paint, which seeing what was given up to get Howard, definitely feel that trade was going to end up happening. Not just the offensive capabilities of those three potentially playing together, but defensively the best point guard and best center together as well. Also looking at it from the standpoint of what it would have done for the wear and tear Kobe has gone through since, Chris and Dwight really would have taken plenty of pressure off of him. This is just my personal opinion, but for me as a Laker fan, it is slightly frustrating seeing how the trade veto and ensuing trade to the Clippers turned their franchise around. I honestly think there would have been no culture change there if Paul isn’t acquired. Would Griffin and Deandre Jordan have grown into the players they are now without Paul there to change the culture immediately? When Paul is hitting clutch shots and willing them to wins at both ends of the court, there is the thought of “He should be doing that across the hallway in the Golden Armor”. At times as a die hard Laker fan, I get the thought of “what if he was a Laker? How many more championships do they have by now? Is Kobe battling the injuries he’s been battling with Paul there to take the load off his shoulders?”
But there are times as a franchise you have to struggle before getting back to the top, which the trade veto has given us as a fan base, unfortunately. Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and D’Angelo Russell give the Lakers a bright future. The fan base just needs to show patience while we watch them grow as players. Kobe should only have this year left, then the reigns of the franchise are theirs. And I for one am excited to watch them grow.