I was tired. I was cranky. I was like Justin Bieber when his mom tells him it’s time for a haircut. Every little thing was pissing me off. And it only got worse when a few buddies called from San Diego, where they just so happened to be vacationing…without me. After a few minutes of small talk, I rushed them off the phone, claiming I was headed out myself. The truth was, I wasn’t doing anything except watching the Royals-Yankees game, and thinking things to myself like “Is this really my life?” and “Is it just me, or does Joba Chamberlain’s face get fatter every time I see him?”
It wasn’t until an hour or so later though, that I got my surliest. That’s when I was browsing ESPN.com, and saw a report that not only had New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul demanded a trade (that was old news), but that he had revised the list of teams that he’d consider being traded to. Wait, what?
Here was my bitter response via Twitter: “On a different note, who cares what Chris Paul’s preferred (trade) destination is? Here’s a novel idea, shut up and play out your contract.”
Now that a few days have passed, I’m happy to report that I’m not nearly as grumpy as I was on Friday night. The sun is shining. The birds are chirping. And thankfully my friends are done with their vacation.
Even after those 72 hours though, my opinion on one thing hasn’t changed: Chris Paul needs to just shut up and play basketball.
This morning- Monday morning- is the day that Paul is supposed to meet with the Hornets front office and coaching staff. In that meeting, it’s expected that Paul will re-assert his previous demand, that he wants a traded. Whether it’s to Orlando, Portland, New York or Mozambique, we still don’t know where Paul would ideally like to end up. All we do know is that he wants out of New Orleans.
It is also expected that in the meeting, New Orleans will say no to his trade demand, and lay out their plan for the team going forward, a plan in which Paul is prominently involved. Reports surfacing early Monday said that the Hornets spent the entire weekend telling other teams that Paul was not available. Good for them. After all, Paul is a franchise point guard, the team’s only meal ticket, and- when healthy- one of the 10 best players in the league by any tangible measurement. I wouldn’t trade him either.
Looking at this big picture though, Paul’s trade request is about more than just he or the Hornets. It’s a statement of where the NBA is, and where it’s going.
No longer do guys get drafted to a team, take the good with the bad and the highs with the lows, just like all of us do in our jobs. Nope for today’s NBA players, when the going gets tough, the tough get going…out of town. LeBron James started this trend a few weeks back, and Paul is simply following his lead.
At the same time, let’s not mistake what’s happening. What Paul is trying to do to New Orleans is even worse than the crap that LeBron pulled a few weeks ago. Way worse.
Because whether you love or hate James, think “The Decision,” was the most entertaining hour in TV history or the biggest career suicide we’ve ever seen, at the very least LeBron was a free agent. His contract had expired. He’d given seven years to Cleveland, and whether you or I think he could have done more in his time there, he still didn’t skip town until after his contract expired.
As for Paul? Well, he’s still got at least two years and close to $30 million dollars coming to him in New Orleans (He’s also got a player option for the 2012-2013 season). Unlike LeBron, this isn’t CP3 paying his dues in New Orleans, and leaving when his contract runs out. This is him trying to force his way out, after making a commitment to this team and its fans 24 months ago.
The worst part is, that Paul’s situation with the Horntes isn’t all that bad.
New Orleans was 25-21 and in the thick of the playoff race before Paul tore the meniscus in his left knee at the end of January (Think the guys playing in Sacramento, New Jersey and Minnesota wouldn't trade their situation for Paul's?). Rookies Marcus Thornton and Darren Collison emerged as nice role players for the club. And while Emeka Okafor and David West aren’t quite Dwight Howard in the paint, they're not stiffs either. The Hornets might not win a championship next year, but to their credit they’re not the Florida Marlins or Oakland A’s having an “Everything Must Go,” sale, and leaving Paul high and dry. They’re doing their best to build a competitive team around him, and while some moves have worked and others haven’t, at least they’re trying.
Which is exactly what I’d tell Paul if I were in the Monday morning meeting with him. I’d tell him that there are no quick fix solutions to the Hornets problems, just like there aren’t any quick fix solutions in real life. It’s a process to build a championship caliber team, but one they seem to be commited to in New Orleans.
Remember too that it was just a few years ago that Kobe Bryant was in a similar situation in Los Angeles, playing for a middle of the pack Western Conference team, his prime passing him by. But after initially demanding a trade, Kobe eventually calmed down, let the General Manager do what he’s paid to, and now he's got two new rings on his fingers. More recently, Dwyane Wade was begging Pat Riley for more help in Miami, after playing with a slew of has been’s, never will be’s and NBDL rejects these last few years. Needless to say, I think Wade’s patience paid off.
If Paul refused to get off his high horse and stuck to his trade demands in Monday's meeting, well then, I’d go ahead and play hardball with him.
I’d rip up that list of teams he wants to go to, and say, “Sorry Chris, you might want to go to Orlando or Dallas, but you’re only getting traded if we can get fair value in return, regardless of where you end up. If that means you’re playing for the Clippers next year, so be it. If the Raptors offer a nice package, well we’d suggest you buy a parka. Word is that the Pacers need a point guard, and let me tell ya, if you thought playing for the Hornets was bad, wait until you’re running the fast break with Tyler Hansbrough.”
Then I’d add that if the team couldn’t get equal value for him, well he’d be staying a Hornet. He wouldn’t have to play if he didn’t want to, and he’d still get paid. He’d just be sitting at the end of the bench in street clothes for 82 games next year, and the season after that too. Who do you think his teammates, the fans and media would side with if that happened? Because I don’t think it’d be the superstar who’s making $15 million a year and refusing to play.
Truthfully, that’s exactly how I expect Monday’s meeting to play out: For the Hornets to remind Paul that they’ve got the leverage in this situation, not the other way around. That if he doesn’t want to be seen as an egotistical, greedy, selfish guy, then he’ll be playing next year, and it’ll be in New Orleans.
Then again, it really shouldn’t matter.
Paul made a commitment to New Orleans back in the summer of 2008, and just because the landscape changed in 2010, it doesn’t mean that the Hornets owe him anything, other than to put the best team on the court they can.
So I’ll end this article the way I started it. To Chris Paul my message is clear:
Just shut up and play basketball.
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