The Hornets will get Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick in the 2012 draft and the expiring contract of center Chris Kaman for the All-Star point guard. The Hornets announced the departure of Paul, their franchise cornerstone, in a news release Wednesday night. The Clippers also get two second-round picks in 2015.
The trade was agreed to under excruciating and controversial circumstances after a previous deal sending Paul to the Lakers was rejected by the league office, which was thrust into the unenviable position of handling the negotiations in the absence of a Hornets owner. After the traditional conference call vetting details and salary-cap compliance of the trade occurred, commissioner David Stern scheduled a media conference call with Hornets chairman Jac Sperling, team president Hugh Weber and general manager Dell Demps -- whose authority to execute the trade was usurped as part of an unprecedented set of circumstances.
"The future is bright for the New Orleans Hornets," Demps said.
|CP3 traded to the Clippers|
As part of the trade, sources said Paul would agree not to opt out of his contract after the season, thus giving the Clippers -- and new teammate Blake Griffin -- a two-year commitment for their soon-to-be high-flying pairing at Staples Center. Paul didn't wind up with the Knicks, his first choice, or the Lakers, his second. But the trade puts an end to a frustrating saga for the NBA, which emerged from a five-month lockout only to be besieged by trade requests from two of the game's biggest stars wanting to move to the biggest markets -- precisely the kind of activity the owners were trying to stop.
The Lakers, whose effort to land Paul in a three-team trade with Houston fell apart over the weekend when it was rejected by league executives running the Hornets, had been back in the picture in the past 48 hours. But a person briefed throughout the awkward trade negotiations said the league office’s efforts had been focused almost solely on completing the deal with the Clippers, who had – in the estimation of NBA executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson – a superior mix of assets around which the New Orleans franchise will be able to rebuild.
"I think the future of the Hornets is looking better today than it's ever looked before and I'm excited about that," Stern said.
In the Lakers-Rockets deal, the Hornets would’ve received Lamar Odom from L.A. and Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic from the Rockets, in addition to draft picks. League executives decided that while that package would permit the Hornets to compete immediately, it would not be the best long-term avenue – and would be one that would deter prospective owners. One detail stood out: Not factoring other contracts that would’ve been signed and traded out in the three-way deal, the Hornets would’ve been taking on more than $24 million in guaranteed money next season – not the best way to rebuild organically after losing a franchise player, the league decided.
The Clippers, wary of giving up too many assets for a two-year commitment from Paul, tried to hold onto sharpshooter Eric Gordon in the deal but ending up parting with him instead of point guard Eric Bledsoe. After L.A. had claimed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers from the Knicks Tuesday, it was widely concluded that the move paved the way for the Clippers to sweeten their offer for Paul by including Bledsoe. In earlier versions of the trade, the Clippers were asked to give up both players – a steep price even for a superstar when the star hasn’t given assurances that he’ll eventually sign a long-term contract.
Paul has an early-termination option after the season and had made it clear to Hornets management that he would exercise it and test the free-agent market. Under the new collective bargaining agreement recently ratified after a 149-day lockout, it would’ve been an expensive decision, as the Hornets would’ve been able to offer an extra year and about $26 million more than any other team.
The Paul saga became embroiled in the inherent conflict of interest that came about when NBA owners voted to take custodianship of the flagging franchise from debt-ridden owner George Shinn in December 2010. The perfect storm of controversy greeted the league, and Paul -- a member of the players' negotiating committee -- almost immediately after a lockout ended.
In rejecting the three-team trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers, commissioner David Stern was acting not in his capacity as commissioner, but rather on behalf of the other 29 owners who technically own the Hornets. Now that Paul is gone, to be paired up with bright young star Griffin, the latest NBA fiasco is over. Perhaps only now can the league focus on the rushed, compressed, 66-game schedule that begins Dec. 25.
Paul's debut for the Clippers will be against the Golden State Warriors -- another team that tried briefly to land him -- in the last of a five-game opening-day schedule on Christmas Day.