Posted Dec 7 2011 1:24AM - Updated Dec 7 2011 9:16AM
The Los Angeles Lakers are not out of the Chris Paul Sweepstakes.
A league source involved in the discussions said late Tuesday night that the Lakers are still among the teams the New Orleans Hornets are having advanced discussions with on a potential trade of Paul, the four-time All-Star guard who is seeking a trade after spending his first six seasons in the Big Easy.
The Lakers, Clippers, Warriors and Celtics currently have a leg up on other teams that are trying to acquire Paul. Yahoo! Sports had reported earlier Tuesday that the Clippers, Warriors and Celtics had the three best offers on the table for Paul. The Lakers' potential offer would send either center Andrew Bynum or forward Pau Gasol along with forward Lamar Odom to the Hornets for Paul.
The Clippers are offering a package, according to sources, that includes guard Eric Bledsoe, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and the unprotected 2012 first-round pick the Clippers currently possess from the Timberwolves. Another source was adamant Tuesday that the Clippers have not included rising star guard Eric Gordon in any package for Paul, preferring to keep Gordon and Blake Griffin together to team with Paul in their own "SuperFriends" team like the Heat.
The Warriors are offering a package involving their young star guard Stephen Curry and their first-round pick Klay Thompson.
The Celtics' package, according to a source, centers on guard Rajon Rondo, along with second-year forward Avery Bradley and a 2012 first-round pick from the Clippers that is protected through the first 10 picks of the Draft.
While the Hornets could conceivably make a deal with any of those teams individually, it's more likely that each of them will require a third team getting involved to get the Hornets the combination of young players and Draft picks they're asking for in exchange for Paul. And the fluidity of the situation, with the Hornets looking for as much as they possibly can get for Paul, makes establishing a single frontrunner difficult.
The league source indicated that while it would be preferable to trade Paul before the scheduled start of training camps on Friday, the Hornets are not going to be held hostage by the calendar. The Hornets "don't feel a rush" to move Paul under those conditions, the source said; while the franchise understands the pressure Paul is under, the Hornets aren't the ones who have asked for a divorce. The Hornets are working almost around the clock sifting through potential deals.
"There's no bad blood with Chris," the source said. "It's just the business."
Trading a franchise player only happens once, and New Orleans is facing unique circumstances. The Hornets are currently owned by the NBA until they find a permanent owner. They are about to complete a campaign for 10,000 season-ticket holders at New Orleans Arena, and feel a sense of obligation to put a competitive team on the court this season rather than hoard Draft picks and do a full-blown rebuild. So if the worst-case scenario is to play some or all of the season with Paul in New Orleans, the Hornets will live with the possibility that Paul could walk at season's end, while hoping the offers improve.
The New York Knicks are currently not in the running for Paul, several sources said, indicating the Knicks just don't have enough pieces to make a competitive offer. Nor is there currently any realistic scenario under which the Hornets would trade Paul to Orlando so that he could team with Dwight Howard, the other high-profile superstar player who's been rumored to want to be dealt.
The status of Paul's former Hornets teammate, free-agent center Tyson Chandler, is also a factor in Paul's decision. The league source confimed reports that Paul's camp has indicated he'd like to play with Chandler, who teamed with him when New Orleans upset the Mavericks in the first round of the 2008 playoffs and made the Western Conference semifinals before losing to San Antonio in Game 7. Chandler is seeking a contract averaging more than $12 million per season, according to sources. The Clippers have an interest in him, but not if it means losing their promising restricted free-agent big man, DeAndre Jordan.
According to another league source, the Warriors are torn between going forward with a stand-alone offer to Chandler, whom new coach Mark Jackson would love to have anchoring the paint, and trying to sign restricted free-agent guard Arron Afflalo -- moves that would bolster the team's defense, as Jackson desperately wants -- or going all-in for Paul, even if it means losing fan favorite Curry and Thompson.
It is not known if the Warriors would offer Chandler the five-year deal he is seeking. His current team, the Mavericks, is willing to give him four years, though they may be balking at the yearly price tag.
Longtime NBA reporter and columnist David Aldridge is an analyst for TNT.
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