It takes a lot to unite the world of NBA fans and observers on the side of the Lakers, but credit David Stern for finding a way, killing the proposed trade sending Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol to New Orleans for Chris Paul.
Where everything goes from here remains to be seen, but one thing is clear: The Lakers lose in the exchange, the only question is to what degree. With a little luck, the damage will be limited, but there's a legitimate chance the repercussions from Thursday's events could reach well into the future.
Potential problems can be seen in near and long term:
If the Lakers try to trade them again, ignoring for a moment the incredible level of uncertainty thrust into the system by the NBA, they'll be doing so from a position of weakness. Opposing GMs will know the context of every offer containing Odom and Gasol, and the perceived need for the Lakers to get them out of town.
Even if the league decides to reverse its decision -- unlikely, I think -- the Lakers still lose out. The trade would leave Mitch Kupchak with gaping holes in his frontcourt. No starting or backup power forward, no backup center. I find it impossible to believe Kupchak wasn't prepared to address those needs, but now his hand has been shown to every GM across the league. Doesn't mean he still can't make something happen, but again, Kupchak would be doing so from a position of weakness.
Time becomes L.A.'s enemy. Hours matter right now, and the Lakers could be hung up for days. If Paul files suit to force the deal through, at what point is there a resolution? What are the Lakers allowed to do in the meantime? Can they trade Odom or Gasol somewhere else? In this compressed period for transactions, even a short delay in L.A.'s ability to engage with the market means many potential targets for Kupchak will already have moved. It's conceivable, at least, the Lakers could be stuck for days, maybe even weeks, while the legal system sorts out the particulars. If that happens, they lose no matter the ultimate outcome.
There's a clock on the amount of time available to the Lakers to acquire Paul and sign him to an extension paying max money. If that date passes, what happens?
How does Mike Brown, a meticulous planner already adjusting to a compressed season and limited practice in his first run with the Lakers, work around a situation going headfirst into the rabbit hole?
Has the well for opposing GMs negotiating with the Lakers been poisoned, because they know every transaction will be scrutinized more heavily? Is it worth the trouble?
In an effort to address perceived needs, the Lakers sent a four-time All-Star and the reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year to bring back Paul. If that deal isn't acceptable, how will the league react to a different one?
Keep in mind, whether the trade is wise or not -- certainly some very smart basketball minds thought it was a bad one for L.A. -- the Lakers are trying to set themselves up for the future. Despite all the apparent whinging from small- and mid-market owners, the new collective bargaining agreement affords them a very limited window to do so. Sign-and-trades for taxpaying teams are only available for this and next season. Extend and trades, like the one sending Carmelo Anthony to New York last year, have also been limited. Free-agent options are almost nonexistent.
Because the rest of the league flipped out and Stern caved, we may never get a chance to find out if the long-term provisions of the new agreement actually do what many owners hope.
Maybe the Lakers repair their relationships with the "traded" players. With tampering charges now flying around regarding the Nets and Dwight Howard, maybe the Lakers are able to make that deal instead. Maybe much of the potential damage dissipates and years from now we all reflect on how the Lakers actually dodged a bullet. It's certainly possible, as the Paul acquisition came with real risk to the Lakers.
If not, the fallout could be measured in seasons.