From a sports perspective, it was considered a fair trade. Paul will be a free agent at the end of the season, and he has said he will not re-sign for the Hornets. By trading him now, the Hornets at least would be getting a significant haul in return. By holding on to him through the end of the season, they might get nothing at all.
Yet it would still clearly be a case of the rich getting richer. That issue, long problematic, has been underscored in recent years by the flight of small-market stars such as LeBron James (Cleveland) and Carmelo Anthony (Denver) to Miami and New York, respectively. It suggests that, even more than in the past, top players are leaving less-glamorous locales at a competitive disadvantage, some say.
“The fact that this trade was vetoed by Stern is very much influenced by the issue of small-market teams versus large-market teams, since that was such a big issue in the talks,” says Mark Conrad, associate professor of law and ethics at Fordham University’s Graduate School of Business in New York.
While the three-team trade would not have technically violated any equality principles, he says, Stern “wanted to keep the spirit of the trend to make it easier for smaller market teams to compete with larger ones. Having just closed a major labor contract, he didn’t want to appear inconsistent.”