Pau Gasol Thoughts, My Texans Prediction and Other Weekend Best Bets

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Pau Gasol: The closest he'll get to Rocket red.
On November 23, the Texans signed quarterback Kellen Clemens to take over third-string duties. On December 4, the Texans signed Jake Delhomme and two days later they cut Clemens.

I never thought there would be a less satisfying era for a Houston player than the Kellen Clemens Era.

Then along came the Pau Gasol Era, which lasted about two hours yesterday.

If you've been living under a rock, then a quick recap -- yesterday afternoon, the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets consummated a three-team trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Rockets and a package of Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Lamar Odom and the Knicks' '12 first-round pick to the Hornets.

Reports went out, goodbyes were said, travel plans arranged. And then, presumably under the pressure of some irate owners (including Cleveland's Dan Gilbert, who sent Volume 2 of his Maniacal Rants in Comic Sans to the commish himself), Stern squashed the deal.

Today, the commissioner explained his reasoning in a statement:

Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the commissioner's office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling. All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.

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Wave that appendage, Stern.
My quick thoughts on the most bizarre sequence of transactional events that I've seen since Jose Cardenal was traded in between games of a doubleheader between the Mets and the Phillies that I attended at Shea Stadium in 1979. (Yes, he was in uniform for two teams on the same day in the same ball park. Weird shit.)

1. This would have been a good trade for all three teams, yes, even the Rockets
There were a lot of Rockets fans who were actually thankful that the commissioner pulled the plug on this deal, thinking that the package of Scola and Martin (and to a lesser extent, Dragic and the pick) was too much to give up for Gasol, who at 31 with three years and $57 million left on his deal is neither young nor inexpensive. But he is productive, and he is an elite offensive player who can hurt you from all over the floor and requires double teams. He's on the bottom tier of elite players in the league, which makes him an upgrade over everyone on the Rockets roster and, with the right surrounding cast, the best player on a highly competitive Western Conference team.

If that trade doesn't get squashed, I feel like the Rockets go to bed Thursday night a better team than when they woke up that morning. But many disagree. Look, the goal the last three years (pretty much since Yao's feet decided to break monthly) has been to upgrade the "best player" spot on the roster. Darryl Morey has shown he can find second- and third-tier guys. Short of bottoming out in the draft, Gasol is about as good as you could expect to get to be your alpha dog if being competitive now is a goal, which Les Alexander has clearly stated it is. List a better player available right now that wants to come to Houston and/or is locked up beyond this year. You can't.

2. Stern's smothering this deal is his way to remind all of us he has the largest appendage.
He can say what he wants about maintaining the value of the Hornets. That's a garbage argument. So the Hornets are better off with Paul ready to walk at the end of the season than with a starting five of Scola, Martin, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza and Jarrett Jack (with Odom coming off the bench)? Come on. Also, we can read e-mails all day long from owners angry over the Lakers fortifying their roster while reducing costs (i.e., luxury tax), but the Lakers would have quickly escalated back into tax territory when they extended Paul, signed another free agent, and/or traded for and extended Dwight Howard. Stern did this to show everyone who is boss, and remind the players that there will be no more Carmelo Anthonys telling teams where to trade them while they are still under contract.

3. This decision was a thousand times more damaging to the league's integrity and public relations than the lockout.
So basically, under the guise of "acting in the best interest of the Hornets" (despite allowing the teams to spend hours negotiating), the commissioner can just squash a deal that all parties involved agree is in their best interests, and that even the most biased of fans can agree is not a whitewash for any one team. It's stupefying, and it wouldn't surprise me if Paul (and maybe others) litigated at some point. Stern is acting like a crazy dictator.


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