Hey, remember when the Lakers, Rockets, and Hornets were involved in a three-team deal that sent Chris Paul to Los Angeles, Pau Gasol to the Rockets, and Lamar Odom/Kevin Martin/a few other players to the Hornets? No? Well, I can't blame you. It happened, and then un-happened in the span of about two hours. "How can a trade un-happen?" you ask. Good question.
There actually are a few legitimate reasons for why a trade can "unhappen" - most commonly that a player doesn't pass a physical with his new team. Oddly enough, the two instances I can think of off the top of my head involve the Rockets and Hornets. The Rockets were going to trade Robert Horry in 1994 (I think) to the Pistons (I think) but then he failed his physical with the Pistons and got sent back. (Worked out well for him as it was the first of his seven titles that year.) The other, more recent example was when Tyson Chandler was going to get traded from the Hornets to the Thunder, this time in 2009, but the Thunder didn't like the look of his foot and shipped him back to the Big Easy. (Which ended up being pretty irrelevant for both sides.)
And I suppose there are other (fairly extreme) reasons - such as a player simply refusing to play for a certain team and sitting out. (Alonzo Mourning with the Raptors, anyone? He got lucky there... the Raptors probably could've sued and voided his contract, but didn't.) Or an owner/GM last minute change of heart or something.
But allowing the commissioner of a league to veto a trade simply because the other owners don't like it or because it creates a competitive imbalance is absolutely ludicrous. What is this? Fantasy football? The owners get to vote on approving trades now? Look, I know the NBA owns the Hornets - but the Hornets have a GM. That guy made this deal in the best interest of the Hornets, not the NBA, which is his job. He's not intentionally tanking his own submarining team and giving back door deals to buddies for secret benefits (which is why that fantasy football veto power exists.) He was getting assets for his team.
Regular readers know I'm a Lakers fan, so you may just think I'm moaning about sour grapes because the Lakers didn't get Paul. And, yes, I'm slightly disappointed by that. But I love Pau Gasol, and never want to see him leave under any circumstances. He turned that team around in 2008. But you know what? Everyone said Memphis got fleeced in that deal... but look who did better in the playoffs last year? The Lakers get swept by the Mavs while the Grizzlies knock off the Spurs and take OKC the distance. If the NBA had done this in 2008, Gasol wouldn't have been a Laker. Every single owner bitched about the unfairness of that deal, but Memphis got assets in return. And assets equal potential success for small-market teams.
I can guarantee you that Gasol would not have stayed in Memphis after his contract ran out. Then what? Memphis gets nothing for him. So... is that what the NBA is forcing the Hornets to do with Paul? If he can't get traded to the Lakers, he certainly can't go to the Knicks, or any other big market team. And no small market team is going to give New Orleans valuable assets (young players or draft picks) to rent Chris Paul for half a season. Because if he doesn't get traded somewhere he wants to play, he's just going to leave next year. And then the Hornets just get screwed over and get nothing. It sucks to lose Paul regardless, but it sucks more to lose him for nothing.
The only way this makes any sense is if David Stern can somehow force Chris Paul to play the rest of his career in New Orleans. Which won't happen. Because it can't. Because Stern and the NBA would get taken to court and whipped up and down worse than a mid-to-late 90's Clippers team.
So, there you go, New Orleans. As if losing your best player wasn't bad enough, you're going to get nothing for him. Because 29 other owners all want him. And apparently they'd rather take their chances at wooing him as a free agent than allowing any of the owners to get him by actually giving you something for the guy.
I get that small market teams are terrified of the "super team" a la Miami. But this is something that just shouldn't happen. (And quite frankly, I can't see how it legally can.) This is a dangerous precedent, Mr. Stern, and I don't think you've given full consideration to all the ramifications. There's going to be some serious backlash from this. I don't know what yet, but it scares me to jeopardize a brand new labor peace like this. We'll see what happens this weekend, I guess, but I can't imagine it'll be good.