Posted Dec 10 2011 12:56AM
A source directly involved in the negotiations told TNT's David Aldridge Friday that progress had been made in a potential trade of Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the trade was not expected to be completed Friday and could have several more incarnations before being completed, if it is completed at all.
The trade may or may not ultimately involve the Houston Rockets, who were part of the initial version of the three-team deal, which was vetoed by NBA Commissioner David Stern Thursday night. In that version, the Hornets would send Paul, a four-time All-Star, to the Lakers. The Lakers would send forward Pau Gasol to Houston, and send forward Lamar Odom to New Orleans. The Hornets would receive forward Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick from Houston. But now, the deal could involve more or different teams that can provide the Hornets with the combination of young players and additional Draft picks that the league is seeking for Paul.
The league -- which purchased the Hornets in December, 2010, in order to find a potential buyer for the team that would keep the team in New Orleans -- thought the Hornets had to do better in order to approve the trade. The Hornets' management team believed it could convince the NBA to sign off on the deal, as it had in previous transactions, if it went to the Lakers and Rockets and got more assets. It is believed that the Lakers have committed to include more future Draft picks to the Rockets in order to make the deal happen, and the Hornets would have to make additional moves to get additional assets.
The deal will not be completed, however, until Lakers owner Jerry Buss recuperates further from the blood clots that required him to be hospitalized earlier in the week. Buss is expected to be released from a hospital in the next couple of days.
Various reports indicated that Stern rejected the deal, in part, because of complaints from small-market teams that the deal favored the Lakers -- Los Angeles would have cleared more than $20 million in salary cap room with the deal, as well as acquiring Paul, money that could have eventually been used to acquire Orlando's Dwight Howard -- and, once again, allowed a star player from a smaller-revenue team to be moved to a high-revenue marquee team. Those owners, already frustrated by the compromises made in order to end the lockout, wanted even greater restrictions on high-revenue teams to get star players, and felt the changes in the new collective bargaining agreement didn't go far enough.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert send Stern an e-mail late Thursday asking that the deal be subject to approval by the league's other 29 teams, and said that he thought most NBA teams were in danger of becoming the Washington Generals, the hapless annual foils of the Harlem Globetrotters team that almost never win.
A management source said Thursday that some owners were concerned about the amount of salary the Hornets were taking on in the initial deal. Odom is due $17.1 million over the final two years of his contract, though only $2.4 million of his $8.2 million in 2012-13 is guaranteed. Scola has four years and $39.2 million left on his contract through 2014-15. Martin has two years and $23 million left on his contract; Dragic is making $2.1 million this season. In addition, owners worried about the message that trading Paul would send to fans in New Orleans who are close to buying 10,000 season tickets in New Orleans Arena.
On Friday, Stern issued a statement defending the NBA's role in vetoing the deal.
"Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner's Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling," Stern said in the statement. "All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade."
Paul was at the Hornets' opening practice of training camp and took part in the workout, speaking with Hornets coach Monty Williams and general manager Dell Demps. Demps said afterward that Paul indicated he was not interested in signing a contract extension with the Hornets at the moment. By not signing the extension, Paul -- like other prominent free agents -- could make much more money next summer. The most Paul could receive in an extension, which would include this year's salary and next year's option year, would be $74 million. By becoming a free agent, he could sign a deal worth as much as $102 million.
New Orleans may be using free agent forward David West to acquire some extra assets as well. A source indicated Friday that West was close to a deal with the Boston Celtics. Yahoo! Sports reported that the potential deal would be a sign-and-trade transaction that would give West a three-year deal worth between $27 and $29 million, with the Celtics sending Jermaine O'Neal and another player to New Orleans to complete the deal. O'Neal also has a 7.5 percent trade kicker in his deal that would increase his salary for this coming season to $6.693 million.
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