HOUSTON (CBS Houston) — A virtual who’s who showed up at Toyota Center for Wednesday’s announcement that NBA All-Star Experience is returning to Houston in 2013.
Former Rockets like Clyde Drexler, Robert Horry, Rodney McCray, Steve Francis and Mike Newlin were among the old school players in attendance, while NBA commissioner David Stern, Rockets CEO Tad Brown and Mayor Annise Parker took the stage for the big announcement that Houston is getting the All-Star Game for the third time ever and the second time in seven years.
But it was who wasn’t in attendance for such a major announcement that seemed curious. While they were certainly there in thought, neither Rockets owner Leslie Alexander nor general manager Daryl Morey were there in body to share the stage with Stern and his uneasy grin.
Their absence perhaps created more questions than anyone was willing to answer.
Are there still some lingering ill feelings after Stern stepped in in January and put the kabash on a three-way trade that would have sent Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and Kevin Martin to New Orleans and the Rockets would have received center Pau Gasol from the Los Angeles Lakers while Chris Paul would have ended up in Los Angeles? Was this sudden and unexpected announcement a makeup call for ruining the Rockets plans to remake the team?
Stern, who is the de facto CEO of the league-owned Hornets, seemed uncomfortable just being in Houston. His discomfort grew and his patience shortened when questioned turned to the vetoed trade following the press conference.
Stern tried to make clear that he didn’t actually revoke the three-way trade. The trade was tabled a day before it became official because “The League” decided the pieces the Hornets would get in return for losing Paul would lower the value of the team and therefore hinder a potential sale of the franchise.
“I don’t think what nobody understands is that no trade gets made in this league without a signoff,” said Stern, who took the time to chastise the questioner for being uninformed. “I was the designated person by our owners to either have the responsibility or be stuck with the responsibility and that’s what I did.”
And he left the Rockets with a mess in the process. The Rockets have had to play with three players who know they aren’t really valued by the franchise. They also lost out on a chance to bid for Denver’s Nene on the open free agent market.
Adding insult to injury, the Hornets ended up dealing Paul to the other team in Los Angeles for some younger and less expensive pieces.
Morey and Alexander have fumed in private, but have toed the company line in public because the Rockets are after all part owners of the New Orleans franchise, too. Plus public feuds with the commissioner never look good. Just ask Mark Cuban.
But everyone knows how the Rockets really feel, even Stern does.
“I’m well aware of that,” Stern said of how the Rockets organization feels about how the trade situation was handled. “But I can’t speak to exactly what was said to whom or by whom because there is some dispute about that. But what I can say is that the trade was not something that we as the owners of the team were prepared to go forward with.”
But the hope is that Wednesday’s announcement of the All-Star Game coming to Houston from Feb. 15-17 next year will at least put a band-aid on a fresh wound.
“Houston is a spectacular sports city, and for one week it will be the basketball capital of the world,” Stern said. “NBA All-Star is a magnificent celebration of our game, and I want to thank the city and the Rockets for welcoming us once again.”
Alexander left Brown to accept the bid to host the 2013 All-Star Experience, but the Rockets owner was gracious enough to issue a statement for what will surely be an exciting and eventful week for the city of Houston.
Houston has twice hosted the All-Star Game in 1989 and most recently in 2006.
“I am thrilled the Rockets and the City of Houston have once again brought NBA All-Star to Toyota Center,” Alexander said. “The All-Star Game showcases the best basketball players in the world and will allow our great Rockets fans and the entire community the opportunity to once again experience the best that our league has to offer. The 2006 All-Star Game in Houston was a tremendous success and we plan to set the bar even higher in 2013. We take great pride in Toyota Center’s standing as one of the premier venues in the country and are honored to be the first arena in Texas to host the game for a second time.”
Contact Terrance Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris