NBA Commissioner David Stern has been hammered the past week for rejecting trades involving Hornets point guard Chris Paul, including a three-team deal that would have sent Pau Gasol to the Rockets and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and Goran Dragic to New Orleans. The league purchased the Hornets last season and is attempting to keep the franchise attractive to potential local buyers. Stern's basketball advisers - NBA execs Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin - killed the earlier deals because the packages failed to include enough attractive young players or draft prospects. Well, unlike the majority of my colleagues, I totally agreed. As I wrote the other day, if I were interested in purchasing and rebuilding the Hornets (and possessed a significantly larger bank account), I never would have signed off on a deal sending a 26-year-old superstar elsewhere for three complementary veteran players, a promising, but unproven guard (Dragic) and lesser draft picks.
Now, with Paul traded to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman (contract dump) and Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick, Stern appears a lot smarter. Sort of like the Stern of old. "I think the future of New Orleans is looking better today than it has ever looked before, and I'm very excited about that," the Commissioner said during a Wednesday night press conference.
Ok, so having solidified the future of one small market franchise, let's see if Stern remains committed to keeping the Kings in Sacramento. Mayor Kevin Johnson meets with the Commissioner Friday in New York to discuss the status of financing for a new arena. That said, Stern did send an entire marketing crew to Sacramento last spring when the team returned for at least another season - the same group he dispatched to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. He also is encouraged by ticket sales and the community's renewed passion for the franchise. It doesn't hurt that co-owners Joe and Gavin Maloof emotionally have jumped back in, are spending money (as promised) to assemble an intriguing roster, and are closely involved in the daily marketing operations.