Despite their "productive" meeting today, Chris Paul still wants out of New Orleans. The breakup-in-progress has been very public, and very heartbreaking for Hornets fans. So why do we give Paul a pass while we continue to pile on LeBron?
It's been about week now since "sources close to Paul" (read: Paul's agent) have expressed CP3's desire for a trade. And all we've been hearing about is how New York or Orlando can make a deal work, and how much better their respective teams will be if they land the talented young point guard. Barely have pundits taken the angle of what his departure will mean for the team or the city of New Orleans.
Should they? That's not really the point. The point is that what he's doing in forcing a trade and playing it out in the press is just as dick a move as what LeBron James did in his week of free agency.
Consider: James was assailed for the spectacle of his courting and his decision, when it could have been done more quietly. Paul could have gone to Hornets management and said, "trade me, and trade me fast." He didn't. He and his people went straight to the media, and the whole process is needlessly playing out in the court of public opinion.
Consider: James hamstrung his team by not letting them go about their own free agent signings, a front office held hostage to a soon-to-be ex-player's whims. Paul, by going public with his demand, instantly lowered the value of what New Orleans can get in return for him. If he stays quiet, the Hornets' desperation isn't so apparent to their trade partners.
Consider: James is considered a traitor for wanting to leave the only pro team he has ever known, in a depressed city where he has become a large part of the community, in an attempt at landing on a winning team. This is a dumb argument, because every city goes through shit, and no one "deserves" anything, but everything I just wrote can be applied to Paul as well.
I'm not unaware of the reason LeBron catches more shit is because he's infinitely more famous, and was an unwilling effigy for every sportswriter's dreams of a small-town boy having an actual connection to his team. It's not fair to foist that on him, just as it's not equitable to let Paul slide.
In the confused, unwritten and ever-changing moral code of sportswriters, a messy free agency breakup is nowhere near as traitorous as a trade demand. In addition to lowering his value, let's remember that Paul's refusing to honor the spirit, if not the letter, of a contract he signed two years ago:
It's been a long time coming," Paul said at the midday press conference at the New Orleans Arena. "It's a very humbling experience...I truly love this city, everything about it. I never had any plans to leave."
Let nothing I've written here be a judgment of Chris Paul, or of the age-old tradition of demanding a trade. It's a business, and players are free to do what they want, within the rules. But what CP3 is doing in New Orleans is no worse, and certainly no better than the LeBron James free agent frenzy. If one is criticized, censure both. If one if given a pass, excuse the other.
Perhaps we're all just out of outrage.