When he visits NBA arenas during the season, David Stern often makes a grand entry into each team’s locker room before the game to mingle with the fellows, perhaps giving them a brief but very inspiring pep talk and showing them the king has his common-man side.
Usually, the commissioner is welcomed with smiles and handshakes and appreciation. When you have a leader who helped the average salary balloon north of $5 million, it’s only proper to be respectful. Plus it’s always a treat to be in the presence of royalty.
I would say the possibility of that warm and fuzzy scene happening this year, however, is about the same as Donald Trump adopting Michael Jordan’s hair style. After a brutal, litigious and often angry labor negotiation, Stern made the second worst move in his 28-year tenure as commissioner when he disallowed the trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers last week, and if you have seen a quote from a player who thought it was an intelligent decision, please forward it to me.
It was a decision of such overpowering absurdity, in fact, that Stern and the league looked foolish trying to defend it. Stern’s decision came on the same day he received a scathing e-mail from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert saying it would be a “travesty” to approve the deal.
As that e-mail was published, the league came back with a weak response that the trade was denied for “basketball reasons.” There was even a diversionary tactic of saying the trade had not been discussed at the Board of Governors meeting in New York on Thursday, but that was silly. Obviously Gilbert is not going to be sitting at the meeting with a laptop and e-mailing the commissioner while they are in the same room. But no one denied the commissioner had received the email.
Still, when he finally got around to issuing a press release, Stern felt the need to say his decision was made “free from the influence of other NBA owners.” That was so unusual and awkward that you had a feeling he had his hand behind his back with his fingers crossed.