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NBA left wanting after failed Paul deal

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  December 9, 2011 10:36 AM

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The NBA is a joke, plain and simple, a league that is now the laughingstock among the big four of North America. The NFL, along with Major League Baseball and the NHL, all have issues. What the NBA has is anarchy and a credibility level rapidly shriveling to zero.

Take heart, Rajon Rondo. You're not the only player who will show up for work today feeling unwanted. Everyone from Pau Gasol to Luis Scola to Lamar Odom and beyond will lace up his sneakers today knowing his employer tried to dump him in the wake of the botched deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers yesterday. The obvious difference is that Gasol, Scola and Odom were actually traded, at least until league owners complained that such a deal was another destructive weight shift in a league already known for competitive imbalance.

Um ... fellas? Correct us if we're wrong, but you just agreed to the terms of a new collective bargaining agreement. If the new CBA does not adequately address the flaws in a league where players have far too much power -- and it doesn't come close -- it's your own fault. You should have buried the entire season.

What a bunch of dopes.

Before we get to the specifics of the Celtics and Rondo, those of us in Boston should all stop for a moment today and ask the following question: if the Celtics, and not the Los Angeles Lakers, had made this deal only to see it overturned, how would you feel today? How would you have felt four years ago if the NBA intervened and blocked the deal that brought Kevin Garnett to Boston? As much as this has to do with an ownerless New Orleans Hornets team operating under the control of the league, it also has to do with a flawed NBA system that boasts a phony salary cap and has too often kissed the feet of the aristocrats.

OK, so the commissioner stepped in here and prevented the rich from getting richer, as if he were some sort of round ball Robin Hood. But here's the problem: the deal was completely within the rules, which certainly suggests that the mighty commissioner, the all-powerful David Stern, can now arbitrarily exert his influence whenever he sees fit.

If that is going to be the case, why does the NBA need a collective bargaining agreement at all?

The NBA, more than any other league, is questionable enough to begin with. Even before the Tim Donaghy affair, by nature, the game has been vulnerable to scandal. The officials blow the whistle more than in any other sport. Point shaving is often suspected. One player can influence the outcome of a basketball game like no other major team sport, and Stern's influence always has been suspected on many levels.

But this? This is embarrassing. This is Stern (and the entire NBA) arbitrarily deciding which teams can get which players, which is akin to fixing the draft lottery so that, say, someone like Patrick Ewing could end up in New York.

What a sham.

Again: if you don't like the rules, boys, you should have changed them when you had the chance.

As for the Celtics and Rondo, let's hope Boston owners or officials were not among those who complained about the prospect of Paul joining Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. (Was a swap of Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard to be next?) That would be terribly disingenuous. The Celtics have exploited the NBA system for years, from the drafting of Larry Bird to the renaissance built around Garnett and Ray Allen, and we have all praised them for it. You win by the sword and die by the sword. There is no crying in basketball, either.

Rondo, in particular, should take note of that last fact, if for no other fact that professional sports are a business. For every team that doesn't want you in a trade, there is usually another that does. In this case, the unfortunate reality is that the Hornets apparently did not want him, either, at least not under the terms reportedly discussed by officials from Boston, Charlotte and any number of other teams.

Still, the point is that Odom sounded every bit as distraught as someone like Rondo appears to be, and Odom (a relatively accomplished veteran) would seemingly have more reason to be upset.

"Maybe I'll see you there tomorrow [at practice]," Odom told the Los Angeles Times. "But I doubt it. You don't want to go to no place you're not wanted. I'll try to give them what they want as much as possible."

Sooner or later, of course, Odom will have no choice but to show up. If he fails to do so, he will not be paid. And we all know that most professional athletes (if not all) love nothing more than their paychecks.

For the Celtics, despite the initial outcome of the Paul negotiations -- his temporary landing in LA -- rest assured that yesterday's development is bad news. Boston has never been a preferred destination for NBA free agents, the greatest acquisitions in Celtics history all coming via trade or the draft. Moves like a trade for Paul are the only chance the Celtics have. Lest anyone forget, the Celtics got bounced in the second round last season by the Miami Heat, who are improving. Meanwhile, Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce are all a year older, suggesting the Celtics will, at best, be a second-round participant in the playoffs.

Without question, Ainge knows this.

If he failed to, he would not have spent so much time recently trying to do exactly what the Los Angeles Lakers were doing.

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About Mazz

Tony Massarotti is a Globe sportswriter and has been writing about sports in Boston for the last 19 years. A lifelong Bostonian, Massarotti graduated from Waltham High School and Tufts University. He was voted the Massachusetts Sportswriter of the Year by his peers in 2000 and 2008 and has been a finalist for the award on several other occasions. This blog won a 2008 EPpy award for "Best Sports Blog".

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