Posted Dec 15 2011 12:17AM
The following is a transcript from the Chris Paul trade announcement with NBA commissioner David Stern, Hornets chairman Jac Sperling, Hornets president Hugh Weber and Hornets general manager Dell Demps.
HUGH WEBER: The New Orleans Hornets are pleased to announce a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers today that will give the Hornets the rights to forward Al Farouq Aminu, guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman and a 2012 first-round pick in exchange for Chris Paul and two 2015 second round picks. The 2012 first round pick coming to the Hornets will be the more favorable between the Minnesota Timberwolves' or the Los Angeles Clippers' picks.
DELL DEMPS: Today is a big day for the New Orleans Hornets. It's bittersweet because we're saying goodbye to Chris Paul. We'd like to thank Chris Paul, Jada and his family for everything that they've done for our franchise, and more importantly to our community. We wish Chris the best. He's a gentleman, and he will be dearly missed.
But on the sweet part, the future is bright. We are bringing in some young players that are going to be very exciting, hard playing. I think our fans are going to be very, very excited. We're going to continue to put a product on the floor that the city of New Orleans can be proud to call its own. We're excited to have a young player in Al Farouq Aminu, a young player that's exciting and will make plays and that will get the fans on their feet. And Eric Gordon, we're excited to have the big time scorer, and Chris Kaman, the veteran. The future is bright for the New Orleans Hornets. Thank you.
JAC SPERLING: This is Jac Sperling, the chairman of the New Orleans Hornets. I don't have much to add from what Hugh and Dell have said except to say thank you very much to those two gentlemen, Dell Demps and Hugh Weber, who have done a spectacular job in helping us achieve, I think, the future of the New Orleans Hornets. I want to thank you both. I also want to thank greatly the league office, especially Stu Jackson, executive vice president of basketball operations, for everything he did. It's been a yeoman's task, and we really appreciate everything that Stu did and of course the commissioner, as well. We greatly appreciate all the efforts that he's delivered on to make sure the New Orleans Hornets are going to be a team that's going to have a great future. David?
DAVID STERN: This is David. There seems to be some confusion this week about the NBA's ownership of the Hornets and how it relates to this situation, and I'd like to take this opportunity to clarify that with apologies for not clarifying it sooner, but I didn't think it was appropriate for me to comment until we completed this transaction.
About a year ago, the Hornets were in serious trouble. There were issues about payroll, there were issues about the team's viability in New Orleans, and I said to the board of governors, I said to them, I never thought I would be recommending what I'm about to recommend, but I believe that the league should purchase the Hornets in order to both complete the season and maintain the team's viability in New Orleans.
The board said yes. They unanimously at the first meeting approved that, and off we were. I will say to you that the circumstances under which we bought the team and the management structure that was approved by the board was that Jac Sperling would be responsible for ensuring that the team was operated within a budget that must be approved by the audit and compensation committee but that any transactions outside the ordinary course of bids and all transactions involving players and coaches required the approval of the commissioner or his designee. And in that context, I was operating as any as the highest ranking executive of the owner of the New Orleans Hornets.
And that's the way we have always worked with this team in terms of signing off on transactions, player transactions that were recommended by Hugh and by Dell and by Jac, and it was in that capacity that we have been functioning here with respect to ownership of the New Orleans Hornets.
I was not and have not been acting under any broad mandate of the commissioner to approve or disapprove trades. Our sole focus was and will remain until we sell this team hopefully which will be in the first half of 2012 how best to maintain the Hornets, make them as attractive and competitive as we can, and ensure that we have a buyer that will keep them in New Orleans. And in that regard we've worked with the mayor of New Orleans, Mitchell Andrew; we've worked with the governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal; we've worked with the corporate community; we've had discussions with cable companies who will carry the games that have increased coverage of the team; and of course we have been dealing directly with the fans, who have now, as it was announced last week, purchased well over 10,000 season tickets. So we're dealing with what we expect will be record season tickets, record sponsorship, increased cable revenue, and hopefully a renewal of the lease that will assure after we finish after the 1st of the year discussions with the governor and the legislature that will assure the continuity of the New Orleans Hornets in Louisiana.
I will just say a couple of other things, and that is that I know there's been a fair amount of comment about an email that I received from Dan Gilbert. I assure all that, first, my decision was made long before I received that email, and second, I wouldn't have acted upon it even if I had received it, because my goal here was to determine what improved the Hornets. There's been some speculation that there was a reason why we didn't want I did not want to have Chris go to a team in a large market, because that would somehow have some impact on life under the collective bargaining agreement. All I can say there is that's not the responsibility that I undertook as the person responsible for ultimately for making decisions on transactions like this on behalf of the New Orleans Hornets.
This is the protocol that was used when the NHL had to take over the Coyotes and the Stars, in both of those cases in bankruptcy, and I believe this is what baseball did when they took over the Montreal Expos. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure I remember that. And that's the responsibility that I had.
It wasn't my first choice, but it's the job that I undertook after discussion with the owners. There was some discussion actually about the team's other teams becoming involved in transactions likes this, and on balance, it was the view of our committee's and mine that for competitive reasons NBA teams should not have a role in approving player and coach transactions, that the role is better played by the commissioner. Not my favorite role, but I did it.
And the reason I didn't feel free to comment previously was that I was not and would not comment on the merits of particular players involved in a trade, who's better or not better.
I am saying that it is our belief, Dell, Jac, Hugh and the commissioner's office, that the proposed transaction that we have tonight is a very good transaction and better for the future of the Hornets and their future in New Orleans than the transaction on which I did not sign off, I guess, four business days ago.
So with that I'm happy to answer my questions, and I know that Jac and Hugh and Dell share that willingness.
Q. David, question just about the last thing you touched on: What about this deal in particular was attractive that the last deal or the deal that was not accepted as you put it last week, what was it that that deal lacked that this deal has, and can you describe broadly what you guys were trying to accomplish in any trade for Chris Paul?
STERN: Actually I'd leave to that Dell to take a shot at.
DEMPS: Can you repeat the question?
Q. What about this deal tonight that you guys have made is superior to the one that was rejected a week ago?
DEMPS: I think this transaction here gives the team a long term foundation. We're getting some exciting young players in the program that we'll get to develop, and we have the opportunity to add more. And I think for the long term future of the New Orleans Hornets, this is the best move.
Q. I'm just wondering, Eric Gordon is eligible for a contract extension. Is that something that the league in this capacity would be willing to discuss, or is that something that's going to have to wait for a new owner?
STERN: The team is authorized to have any discussion that any other team can have. And so the answer to your question is it can happen with current ownership or it can wait. It depends upon the player's choice.
Q. But ultimately you would have the final say on that, David?
STERN: I have to sign off on all major transactions.
Q. David, this question is for you: How concerned were you, and obviously you said that you couldn't comment to this point, but how concerned were you with public perception? You've obviously dealt with it before in playoffs and conspiracy theories and this and that, so as you started to hear things, how did you react and how concerned are you with that?
STERN: I knew that we were doing the best thing for New Orleans. That was my job. And when you do what I've been doing for something dealing with the NBA for I guess approaching 40 years, you have to stick with what you think is right.
I must confess, it wasn't a lot of fun, but I don't get paid to have fun, even though I generally do.
Q. I wanted to clarify something you said, that there had been some discussion about other teams being involved in this transaction. How far did those conversations go, and at what point does that have to strike everybody as a massive conflict of interest?
STERN: What do you mean by discussion of other teams? That was the first trade where there was a discussion with other teams.
Q. I guess that's what I'm asking. I wanted to clarify that. I thought you had said that other teams had a voice
STERN: No, no, what I said was there was no, I said exactly the opposite. I have received emails from two owners on this subject, both of which I felt totally free to disregard because it doesn't comport with my view of the job, and that when we bought the team there was some discussion of whether other owners should be involved in deciding upon transactions because they all owned 1/29, and it was decided by the both the audit committee and the advisory finance committee that that would not be a tenable arrangement and that it was best that I be the person to sign off on all transactions. There were no other teams involved at all, and in fact, I always thought that the owners were punishing me for making the recommendation to buy the team.
Q. My question is to all three if I can get a chance, whoever wants to respond. What happened with the situation that we thought that the deal that the Clippers had pulled out of the deal, and then kind of just talk about what prompted the conversation to resume, and what happened after that?
DEMPS: I think in any negotiation you go back and forth, and everybody is trying to get the best deal. You know, I don't want to divulge all the conversation and all the talks, but in most negotiations it's a give and take, and then we were able to find a common ground, and that's the most important thing. I think both teams are happy with the outcome, and in any trade, sometimes you feel like you gave a little too much, and I think that's just what happens in trades.
Q. Was there a sticking point with Eric Gordon? Was there any situation that he had to be included?
STERN: Well, let's not talk too much about how the sausage was made, but Dell was trying to get and advising us that he was trying to get the most that was possible. I know there was some criticism of the Hornets for seeking too much in both the first pick and Gordon, but I think at the end of the day, for a player of Chris Paul's caliber, the Hornets were not seeking too much, and I think the Clippers agreed.
Q. They initially sent something out saying that the deal was too much for them to do, I mean, the original deal.
STERN: I don't think they sent it out. I think it was blogged and tweeted, but I didn't see anything from the Clippers that said that.
Q. It was on their website and their general manager was on there with an interview on their website. He said that.
STERN: Well, I guess welcome to the NBA. Life is a continuous negotiation, and people say lots of things. And there were lots of things said in the last four business days about this trade and the previous trade, and I think the good news now is that everybody can is free without regard to how we got here to take their shots up or down of whether this is a good trade for the Hornets given their decision to accommodate Chris Paul's wish and get compensation for that by this trade or not. And I think that's what basketball is about, to have those conversations.
Q. David and Dell, if this trade was what was being sought all along and there was harmonious communication between the Hornets and the commissioner's office, why was the first trade even submitted to be turned down? And also for Dell, have you guys spoken to Eric and gotten any assurances from him about his future plans or anything because certainly the franchise doesn't want to be in this position with him in a couple years.
DEMPS: To your first question, in trades in NBA, there's so many different options and there's so many different things that come about, and as a general manager you present those different options to ownership. And that's just how it goes when you're working hand in hand.
As far as us communicating with Eric Gordon, we have not done it at this time. We're excited to get him in here, and we want to sit down and talk to him and tell him about us and tell him about the program and how he's going to be a big part of it.
STERN: I think the future of the Hornets in New Orleans is looking better today than it's ever looked before, and I'm very excited about that, because I think the NBA sort of implicitly made representations to the community that it would do the best it could providing Hugh and Jac with additional support on the marketing side, giving Dell whatever he needed from a basketball advice, and actually within approved budgets, supporting the team financially. And we feel that we're well on in accomplishing that goal.
Q. Either for David or Dell: Last Thursday night when it got out that there was a deal agreed upon and then obviously it was killed, was there any miscommunication as far as what the Hornets were allowed to do before it got to the commissioner's office? How did this all play about that a deal was thought to be done when it wasn't really done?
STERN: Dell never thought the deal to be done, and those who said that, all for attribution off the record, were trying to force him to make that deal. But Dell came to us in the normal course. He was presenting lots of different options and opportunities. He then presented this one to Jac and me, and we said that we weren't ready to sign off on that one at that time. He said, okay, we've got lots of we have a very valuable player, and let's go let's see what else we can do.
And I must say that when I was talking about the future of the Hornets, I forgot to mention one of the most important attributes is that we have a new collective bargaining agreement which is better able to make teams profitable, and we think in the long term will make all teams more competitive together with a robust revenue sharing. So we're feeling pretty good about the prospects of the league and the Hornets.
Q. I was wondering, a lot of NBA observers are alarmed by the number of big trades that are driven by superstars appearing to take their teams hostage to force their way where they want to go, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, Chris Paul now. Is there anything that should be done to fix that, or are you happy with that the way it is?
STERN: You know, we're accepting of the fact that a team has a job to do, that tries to make itself as strong as it can, and also, when a player has the opportunity to play out his contract and not go anyplace, not stay at the team, that's his option. We think over time with the five year difference with a five year contract to give your own free agent and the seven and a half percent increases, that instead of the four year and the four and a half percent increases, so we have a three percent difference, that there will be teams that say to their player, you know, you can play it out this year, but we're intent upon keeping you and we can pay you if you're a top player probably $30 million more.
So we're not that worried about it in the long run. But we accept the concept of free agency, and that's a bedrock, and I've been supportive of that. So I think we're always going to have some element of a player saying to his team, I don't want to continue in this place, I want to play out my contract, and I would like you to see whether there's someplace else for me to play and you get value for me.
Q. David, two questions: The first one is when the league took responsibility for the Hornets franchise, was there an agreement to keep the team in New Orleans for a specific period of time at least when that agreement was made?
STERN: No, there was no agreement, but there was an intention because we had a lease that has this year and two more years to run, and we were planning to honor that lease. So as far as we were concerned, our undertaking and our intention, we didn't have to have some formal agreement, was that one way or the other, the league running the Hornets was going to live up to its obligations under the lease. And I must say that I think that as this year unfolded, with the job that Dell did to keep the team competitive over the past season and the extraordinary job that Monty Williams did demonstrating that we have a great young coach as well as an imaginative general manager, the interest in our in people coming forward increased, and we're in the process of having discussions, and the reason they're not moving as fast as they might otherwise move is that we're trying at the same time to negotiate a lease extension, and the ownership will be contingent on a new owner accepting the lease. And we think that's a good thing.
Q. And if I could follow up, given the backlash with regard to this transaction and the league office's role in it, would you recommend that this type of arrangement never be made again?
STERN: Oh, no, I'm out looking for teams to buy (laughing). I would recommend only to the most hardy with the thickest of skins that they do this. But honestly, if it's necessary in an extraordinary circumstance, to make good on a league's representation to the community that it will do its utmost to stay there, then I would recommend it again. And I don't think I think the backlash, frankly, which started on Friday, so today is Wednesday, so Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, so four business days, I think I wouldn't call it a backlash, I would call it a frenzy, and it was understandable because there were lots of issues that were not I saw lots being talked about as though I was vetoing this trade somehow in the best interest of the league or the best interest of the collective bargaining agreement. That was wild speculation and was untrue. But I think it was best to try to complete the transaction before we went and did that.
So I don't consider it so much a backlash when you have a frenzy for four business days. It's a new world of it's the new digital world in which we live in, and we accept that because on the things that are good and pleasant we take advantage of that, so we have to accept what went on here, especially with us having decided not to comment.
Q. David, because the league owns the team, are you able to are the Hornets able to put a player out to amnesty and take advantage of the amnesty clause while the league owns the team?
STERN: Absolutely. That depends upon the recommendation of the of Monty, Hugh and Jac. This is not a hobbled team; this is a team that enjoyed a great run into the Playoffs and that now is the subject of enormous fan support. And I think when the fans of New Orleans understand what we're talking about here with a great coach, young new talent, and the kind of supportive management that they have in Dell and Hugh and Jac, it's going to be all good.
Q. I wonder if you can provide us with additional details of how informed you were throughout the negotiation process or your office was, the offers and counteroffers on the first deal, and your level of discomfort of having a role in the success of one team, which might lead to almost a rooting interest in order to do that part of your job well.
STERN: Well, I think that when the board made the decision to buy the team, as other boards in other sports have done, there was always going to be a level of discomfort. But I didn't consider it to be rooting for a team or against a team. It's a metric that's easy to describe, which is what's in the best interest of this team on this trade. And it was somehow suggested that the league was interested in something else; it was not so. There was only one thing we were interested in, and that was to get the best value, and that's the role that we played. I don't know, does that answer your question?
Q. No, not really, because you were very clear before that your only interest was to do the best you could for the New Orleans Hornets.
STERN: In the trade.
Q. In this particular trade, yes. So what I was asking, naturally you would have liked to have done that well. Does that not lead to the commissioner of the NBA having a rooting interest that he did well, that he would like the players that were involved in the trade he had a role in to perform well?
STERN: No, I'm now moving on to the next thing. That's going to be the job of the new ownership that will likely take over in the first half of 2012. All we were trying to do was at this time, frozen moment in time as all trades are judged, whether we did something that we viewed as the best that the Hornets could do. What happens later on, we'll leave it to you and other pundits to assess.
You know, you know what happens in trades. I'm always reminded of the Gasol trade, which everyone said that Marc Gasol was just a throw in because he was a very low draft pick, but suddenly he's a max player, and it takes years for something like that to develop. So no judgments will be made about this trade I don't think until this team is safely in new hands.
Q. And were you informed throughout the negotiation process?
STERN: Generally informed about discussions with teams, yes.
Q. You're speaking very optimistically about the future of the Hornets in New Orleans, but the team has struggled financially and the team has worked pretty hard to sell those season tickets. What specifically makes you think that the Hornets can succeed long term there, and are you flatly rejecting any possible bids from owners that would move the team out?
STERN: Yes, the answer to your last question is yes. We're looking solely for ownership that wants to keep the team in New Orleans. We do pro formas. I must tell you that every good team struggles if they haven't gotten to 10,000 season tickets to get to 10,000 season tickets. We've got lots of teams that don't, and they're struggling to get there. And so we struggle to do that.
But the community has stepped up with respect to major sponsorships, and we're projecting that or we were projecting that for this season, were it not strike shortened, that the Hornets would be profitable. And we think a profitable team in New Orleans has a great future.
Q. David, this first question is for you along the ownership lines. Does a completion of this deal in your mind move the timeline for establishing new ownership any at all?
STERN: No, the timeline is really set by discussions that we're having with the state and the exposition authority that runs the building because we need a lease extension and we need the certain approvals that cannot be given or made until probably March or April.
So we expect to move negotiations along and hopefully have agreement in principle or actually an agreement in fact subject to a couple of things like those approvals in early 2012 with a closing dependent upon when those approvals come through. So that's always been our timeline, and I wish it were faster because I think I'm not planning to have this role in any other context other than finishing up this transaction.
Q. And my second question is do you expect the completion of this deal to positively affect player movement around the rest of the league, perhaps guys out there in teams to see what happened with the Chris situation?
STERN: I don't know. I think that is the subject of what general managers decide to do. I don't know what they're thinking. And I know this is an active time as we move towards Christmas Day and opening day, but I don't know the answer to that question.
Q. Dell, my question for you is this: Based off of this experience which you've dealt with in the past few weeks, do you feel, in terms of your role now as general manager of the team, do you feel you're empowered or do you feel any less empowered after this process, and now in this situation where you've got the lead running the team versus the previous situation? Is there a difference, or do you approach the way you do these things the same way?
DEMPS: The same way. And I think the commissioner's office has been unfairly portrayed because this is what happens in every NBA team. When trades happen, there's so many different levels, and you're always reporting to the owner, you're updating the owner. There are some owners that are really hands on, there are some owners that want to stay in the background, and it's different in each situation. But in no way do I feel like I'm upset. I'm happy; I feel like I have the luckiest job in the world, and I'm just excited for the future of the New Orleans Hornets.
Q. And question for David: What you said about you hope to have ownership in place, and I know you spoke about the lease agreement for sometime in the spring, can you say there's ownership, you've identified or have an idea of who that ownership would be at this point, or is it still an open ended process where you're kind of taking applications from various places?
STERN: Well, I would say that there are different levels of where discussions are, and we've had a couple of the potential groups are a little further along than the others. But we've been moving at a relatively deliberate speed because we can't tell an owner or a potential owner that this is what the lease will look at until we've finished negotiating the lease terms, and when we do that, then we'll be in a position to say this is the lease subject to approvals, and then we'll make the deal.
I do think there will be some spirited bidding, shall we say, for the franchise.
Q. Do you think there will be spirited bidding because of what the team now has in place in terms of future building blocks and having salary cap flexibility with this deal that's been executed? How big of a role does that play into that
STERN: I think that's only part. I think that somebody looks at a team and its ability to compete in the long term and its flexibility. Many owners like flexibility when they're buying a team. I think the collective bargaining agreement is a huge impetus to potential interest. I think that the support of the governor and the mayor and the business community and the fans is another one, and I think when you look at the job that Hugh and Monty and Dell are doing, that's another set of assets, with the oversight by Jac, who fortunately for us is an experienced businessman who was born in New Orleans. So I think it's a broader picture than that, but I think there are many reasons for a buyer to look favorably upon New Orleans.
TIM FRANK: Thank you very much for joining us.
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