9:25 p.m. | Updated The most predictable news development since Herman Cain gave up his run for the White House came late Friday afternoon when it was reported that the Chris Paul trade talks had restarted. Make the package of players going to New Orleans a bit younger, the Hornets were told, and the N.B.A. might allow Chris Paul to take up residence in Los Angeles after all.Did Commissioner David Stern e-mail the owners who had pressured him into voiding the original deal for “basketball reasons” on Friday morning to ask: “Happy now?”The power play seemed to have more to do with the Lakers than the Hornets and did nothing but reinforce old conspiratorial notions that the N.B.A. is a rigged sport, in one direction or another.We do understand why some owners, so tired of hearing about Showtime and sunshine, would think with their hearts as opposed to their heads. But Stern is supposed to be the league’s pragmatic head in control of its imprudent heart. My guess is that he rolled his eyes and went along with the charade to avoid an insurrection in the owners’ ratification vote on the new collective bargaining agreement.As proprietary caretakers of the Hornets, Stern’s and the owners’ primary responsibility is to keep the franchise viable while they search for a new investor. How exactly did overturning a surprisingly productive deal for a player the Hornets are certain to lose in seven months’ time make them a more attractive buy?“The decision was taken that Chris Paul in New Orleans was more valuable than the trade that was being discussed,” Stern said in a Friday statement.Sure it was. Could he have at least provided us one good basketball reason?O.K., Andrew Bynum. If the 24-year-old center winds up in a reconfigured deal, Stern could argue that he is a better fit for a rebuilding team than the aging Lamar Odom. Then again, Bynum’s knees are said to be twice as old as the rest of him.Maybe the most pertinent issue is that once the Lakers part with Bynum, they would have no realistic asset to offer Orlando for Dwight Howard.Even better for the Laker haters Friday was unsubstantiated reports that Howard would prefer a trade to New Jersey — with the Nets denying more unsubstantiated reports that they tampered with Howard by meeting with him. But as long as the Lakers can’t have Paul and Howard, then the owners who were squawking for reasons of varying self-interest will apparently let the Hornets get on with it.Life is good, even if the N.B.A., for about 24 hours, seemed to be run by the wrestling impresario Vince McMahon.In the case of the original three-team deal engineered by Hornets General Manager Dell Demps, New Orleans received several quality players for a brooding superstar certain to walk after the 2011-12 season. Three of the players — the forwards Odom and Luis Scola from Houston along with the scoring guard Kevin Martin — would arguably have made the Hornets a more competitive team than they would be with Paul.If anything, Stern and the owners should have applauded Demps for keeping the Hornets from risking the fate of last season’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors after those teams foolishly held on to LeBron James and Chris Bosh during the 2009-10 season.It is one thing to impose financial penalties through collective bargaining to slow the migration of star players to the bigger markets. But this was a random ruling transparently designed to obstruct a team the league does not own for having the audacity to think big while having the assets required to do so.The Lakers were well positioned to land Paul and perhaps Howard in trades because they had smartly constructed their team over years. Nobody forced the same Hornets — then operating out of Charlotte — to trade the draft pick Kobe Bryant to the Lakers in 1996. Nobody made Memphis send Pau Gasol to the Lakers a dozen years later. Nine other teams might have drafted Bynum — selected by Los Angeles with the 10th pick — in 2005. Odom was part of the package the Lakers received from Miami for an aging Shaquille O’Neal.The inverse of the Lakers has been the Knicks, who are titleless since 1973 and were idle in the initial Paul bidding because they foolishly emptied the chamber of their gun in last season’s pursuit of Carmelo Anthony.What made Stern’s and the owners’ decision worse was that it fingered Paul as a co-conspirator against a small market — and we know that the Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert believes that to be a capital crime.But the truth is that Paul was once a consummate team player in New Orleans, relishing the opportunity to help the city, post-Katrina, until the franchise began sinking under George Shinn’s failed ownership before going into N.B.A. custody. Here is Paul, 26, with the free agency he will have earned months away, wanting to have a say in where he spends the prime of his career. For this he’s a bad guy?Small-market owners need to understand that they can have their more restrictive system but they can’t have back the old reserve clause, thrown out by the courts more than 30 years ago. They need to accept the fact that Los Angeles will always be a prime destination for beautiful people and players.But if that’s all it takes, how do those small-market-and-minded owners explain the Clippers? Not with basketball reasons.