The outrage surrounding David Stern’s decision to veto a blockbuster trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers in the winter of 2011 has simmered.
But 20 months later, it’s clear that the veto significantly altered the trajectory of the Lakers and the league.
The denied trade:
Lakers get: Chris Paul
Hornets get: Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Gordan Dragic, 2012 1st-round pick
Rockets get: Pau Gasol
Getting Paul would have allowed the Lakers to seamlessly bridge the gap between the present and the future.
Most importantly, it would have paved the way to Howard signing with the Lakers long-term.
The great irony of the Howard saga this summer is that — despite the universal scorn thrown his way — he actually took less money so he could play in the best basketball situation possible. The Rockets were a young up-and-coming team in need of one more star, and Dwight left $30 million on the table to try and be the guy to push them over the top.
If that Paul trade goes through in 2011, though, the Lakers are a much more attractive option than the Rockets, at least to Dwight. It’s important to note that Paul and Howard have reportedly wanted to play together for years.
That Paul trade was the first step in rebuilding a dynasty for LA.
In the the aftermath of the veto, the Lakers turned to a haphazard Plan B that has failed in every way possible.
Instead of trading Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Paul, the Lakers stood still in 2011-12 — which they never planned to do, and which ultimately caused them to stagnate as a franchise.
The next year they traded their trade exception for Steve Nash — a 39-year-old who couldn’t stay on the court.
They also traded Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard. It’s still a great trade that any team would have done. But when the Lakers traded for Howard they brought him into an old, mis-constructed team that was on the decline. If Howard had been brought into a better situation — say, a team with Chris Paul at the helm — things would have been different.
That veto changed everything.
If the Paul trade had been allowed to go through, they’d be a juggernaut again. Instead they’re rebuilding and preparing for the summer of 2014, when they’ll try to land the type of star that they thought they had before Stern denied them in 2011.
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