NEW YORK – Only once during four decades of covering pro basketball do I recall a team that became almost whole in a forced trade by its franchise player . . . and that took two seasons after Milwaukee agreed to relocate Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (and Walt Wesley) for Junior Bridgeman, Brian Winters, David Meyers and Elmore Smith.
Bucks executive Wayne Embry keenly salvaged the susceptible situation (the Knicks, Kareem’s other option, offered declining veterans) accruing promising (mostly) young talent in the deal. He understood there would a sheer fall from grace to the bottom of the standings and correctly assessed they would have ample battlefield experience to facilitate forthcoming rookies who figured to be regal.
In 1977, two years after Kareem’s power play, Kent Benson was drafted No. 1 and Marques Johnson No. 3. The Bucks — adding Sidney Moncrief and other choice morsels along the way — advanced to the Eastern Conference finals five straight seasons.
Numerous teams over the years have allowed their discontented superstars to get away without receiving near equal value.
Julius Erving’s refusal to report to Nets camp coerced impoverished owner Roy Boe to sell his services to the 76ers for $3 million. The franchise wasn’t the same until Jason Kidd arrived and guided it to two Finals.
The Timberwolves went from eight playoffs in a row, the last a conference finals, to perennial lottery participation in the wake of Kevin Garnett’s push to flee.
The Celtics became automatic championship contenders, winning one. The T-Wolves, who got Al Jefferson, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green and two first rounders, instantly developed into a joke.
We all believed the Nuggets did pretty well for themselves considering the relentless pressure Carmelo Anthony put on them to trade him before camp even opened last season.
Meanwhile, months later, what do they have to show for surrendering their money-making, crowd-pleasing official scorer: Dino Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov and an aging Andre Miller, who was exchanged for Raymond Felton?
You get the point. Evidently, David Stern did, too. More important, underlines a league source, the group that’s about to purchase the Hornets from the league, branded the Chris Paul deal sadly lacking.
That’s why he squashed the original three-way trade accenting Paul. The commissioner rightly felt the Hornets were taking on too many overpaid players and not getting enough in return — in terms of capable youth and draft picks — to justify sacrificing their meal ticket.
So, negotiations were reopened and were expected to be finalized this weekend . . . unless another team (the Clippers have far more assets than the Lakers and the Rockets combined) came up with a more appealing proposal.
Or the Lakers bailed for good because they couldn’t meet NOLA’s, er, Stern’s criteria — more skilled, young studs and superior draft picks.
And that’s exactly what happed late Sunday night. The Lakers quit negotiations and abruptly traded Lamar Odom to the Mavericks, revealed a source, for their trade exception gained from the Tyson Chandler swap with the Knicks.
Paul has told a peep or two he would strongly consider the Clippers as Game Plan No. 3 -behind the Knicks and Lakers. They’re blessed with six possible pawns: Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Al-Farouq, Chris Kaman, restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan — about to sign a $40, four-year offer sheet with the Warriors, and Minnesota’s 2012 No. 1 pick.
Stern’s next order of business will be to keep his nose out of Orlando’s business. Re-aligning its star will be left strictly up to management.
Dwight Howard, the latest empowered employee on an expiring contract (his option) and already-expired interest in staying put, took his time disrespecting Disney World. Now, it’s either move him or lose him for nothing.
Surprising no one, Howard longs to play with Deron Williams and for the fun and sun of Newark, New Jersey.
At least that was the initial report. Now, according to agent Dan Fegan, Orlando has granted permission for him to speak/meet with the Nets, Mavs (does Mark Cuban now try to reroute Odom to the Magic as part of a package?) and the Lakers.
Once the Paul trade goes down they will be down to one fragile asset — Andrew Bynum and his uninsured knees.
By far, the exceedingly elastic Nets are Orlando’s best trading partner. They offer whatever the Magic want . . . again, with the full understanding no matter how much comes back it’s not going to compensate for the loss of Howard.
The Nets can provide a replacement center; Babbling Brook Lopez, including someone to take his boards for him. Draft picks; a pair of No. 1s. Contract baggage removal from the Magic’s marker; Hedo Turkoglu’s $34.8 million, three-year responsibility. And an opportunity for Howard to get a shot at the remaining Kardashian sister.
Peter Vecsey covers the NBA for the New York Post.