Increasingly despondent in recent days, David Stern decided to blow up the league. Sources close to the commissioner are painting a grim picture of the once respected chief executive of the National Basketball Association. Future plans are on hold until he finishes gutting himself and anyone foolish enough to approach.
Recently taken to drinking creme de menthe and listening to Joy Division, the commissioner vetoed a three-way trade that would have brought Chris Paul to the Lakers, packed a depleted Hornets roster with legitimate starters, and bolstered a sagging Houston front line. Riding a wave of bewilderment, Stern did it again last night, this time blocking a proposal that was spoon-fed to his naive demand for younger players. The Lakers pulled out and sent Lamar Odom to the World Champion Mavericks who were in obvious need of charity. Pressed for comment, Mark Cuban reportedly shrugged and said, “rock star!”
Lamar Odom’s been much maligned for not showing up to a training camp that didn’t want him. He hasn’t been a happy camper and I honestly can’t blame him. Perhaps being on another championship roster will ease the sting. Ironically, it’s the same team that swept his beloved Lakers in the second round last season. As for Mr. Stern, associates report that he was last seen strapping himself to an atomic bomb and hurtling toward earth - leaving his stool at the Mt. Olympus Boom-Boom Room, bereft of soft fleshy warmth.
My father, an abstract painter, didn’t allow television in the house. He felt it distracted from the creative spirit or some such. My brother and I finally convinced him that Jacques Cousteau specials were required homework. Dad ponied up for a minuscule Zenith, accompanied by a 2 ½ hour limit per week. Program planning in of itself, was entertainment. All was fine until my brother’s best friend Teddy Augustine, picked up what he believed to be an unloaded Daisy B-B gun and put a neat little hole in the Zenith’s screen. It was hilarious until we realized that we were once again, without television.
Free agency has been ridiculously shortened and compressed. The only hope for marginally effective execution stood with the general managers and their staffs, the lockout was not of their making or desire. Their chances depended on some modicum of autonomy and cooperation from their owners and league - the same crowd that spent much of the year devouring itself from the inside. Poor Chris Paul, to have the misfortune of belonging to the one team owned by the league. He never had a prayer.
As I write this accounting, the Lakers will be pursuing their next course of action, realigning an uncertain front court. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum were still here as of ten minutes ago but after that, the corp of bigs consists of Derrick Caracter, Ater Majok and Chris Daniels. Caracter has played some 200 minutes in his NBA career. Majok and Daniels only actually exist on paper. Sorry guys.
The ripple effect from David Stern’s actions will be profound. It’s easy as fans to speculate about the next-in-line trade but those in the team trenches understand a pileup on an icy freeway. There are only two weeks until opening day. The season that almost wasn’t, has already been hijacked by a man who cannot find the means to get past the players’ singular defining moment. Humiliated beyond acceptance, they sued their own league. It forced Stern and company to capitulate, and they can never get past it.
If you happened by a storefront window and peered in at the past six months, you would see a series of deliberately deconstructive actions. Whether it’s the desire to destroy the players’ union, to cancel the season in its entirety, or to simply tear at those who have the audacity to succeed, the actions don’t speak to a healthy infrastructure. It’s curious - the fans have been enthused, the players have been superb, the revenue has been robust - and this in a sagging economy. Don’t tell it to David Stern, he has waded through the landscape like a child stomping on sandcastles. And all that’s left is a nagging question - when does that insect Adam Silver get his turn?