For all of the talk during the NBA's labor dispute of revamping the system, little that's transpired since the league and players reached a tentative settlement agreement last weekend indicates that much has changed. After the likes of Carmelo Anthony and Deron Williams were accused of holding their respective former employers hostage, the sagas of superstars Dwight Howard and Chris Paul before the upcoming season even begins threaten to play out the same way.
Paul, the All-Star point guard for the league-owned New Orleans Hornets, is a free agent after this season. So is Howard, the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year and center for the Orlando Magic.
Yet both players, despite their own protests to the contrary, are reportedly pushing to be traded sooner than later. Paul's dream landing spot is reportedly the New York Knicks--already featuring his good friend Anthony, as well as fellow All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire--while Howard is supposedly seeking a move to Los Angeles, whether it's the Lakers or Clippers.
Meanwhile, the Nets reportedly offered a package headlined by young big man Brook Lopez to Orlando for Howard--although New Jersey general manager Billy King quickly issued a denial--and in exchange for Paul, Boston used All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo as bait, according to reports. Of course, top Celtics executive Danny Ainge shot down those rumors, although scuttlebutt has Rondo on the block, with the Indiana Pacers--the closest franchise to Rondo's hometown of Louisville--also being a suitor, while Paul is reportedly uninterested in signing a long-term extension with the Celtics, meaning he'd be a one-year rental as the team tries to capitalize on the end of the Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen era.
Magic general manager Otis Smith is in a tough position, especially after his blockbuster deal last season that netted former All-Star Gilbert Arenas and resulted in a first-round playoff exit to the Hawks, a team they swept the previous year. The NBA is in a precarious spot themselves, as any transaction including Paul will be looked upon with great scrutiny as long as the league is technically running the organization, despite the presence of second-year general manager Dell Demps.
Another young general manager, Denver's Masai Ujiri, seemingly set the standard of how to deal with such situations last season. Although the aforementioned Anthony saga was indeed a distraction, the Nuggets ended up making a trade that gave them financial flexibility and a group of promising young players that ended up making the playoffs.
Although Anthony got his wish, things have worked out a bit differently for Williams, the All-Star point guard who played professionally in Turkey during the lockout. He went from a stable situation in Utah--although the sudden retirement of longtime Jazz head coach Jerry Sloan, possibly partly fueled by Williams, altered the landscape there--to a putrid Nets squad, and with his agent's recent comments that he won't sign a long-term extension with New Jersey (or Brooklyn) in the near future, it can be concluded that neither team reaped immediate dividends in the swap.
Acquiring Howard could certainly change Williams' opinion on the situation, but with the Clippers potentially mulling an offer--and having attractive youth and size at their disposal--to pair the center up with Blake Griffin and the Lakers waiting in the weeds with the ability to put the likes of Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom on the table, nothing is guaranteed. Likewise for Paul's desires, since New York doesn't seem to possess the requisite assets to entice the Hornets and the Clippers also being a possibility to acquire him.
Regardless of how New Orleans and Orlando choose to deal with their respective situations, it's clear that, at least in the present, the lockout rhetoric of the owners asserting more control of the system hasn't happened yet and super-team scenarios will continue to arise. Bulls fans should feel grateful that Derrick Rose openly pines for the return of low-profile veterans like Keith Bogans and Kurt Thomas, rather than be susceptible to the pleas of his superstar counterparts who prefer to join 'em, instead of beat 'em.