Posted on: December 14, 2011 7:19 pm
Edited on: December 15, 2011 1:44 pm
 

Chris Paul traded to Clippers

Chris Paul is headed to Los Angeles after an agreement was reached Wednesday night sending him from New Orleans to the Clippers, ending a fiasco in which the NBA found itself in an uncomfortable conflict of interest with its role overseeing the trade.

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.

Posted on: December 14, 2011 2:34 pm
Edited on: December 14, 2011 6:33 pm
 

Magic not ready to trade Howard

Despite strong overtures from the New Jersey Nets, the Orlando Magic informed teams Wednesday they are not ready to seriously engage in trade discussions for All-Star center Dwight Howard, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The Nets were "pushing hard" over the past 48 hours and accelerated the talks to the point where teams were being recruited to serve as a third or fourth team to provide Orlando with the kind of assets it would find acceptable if there was no other option but to trade Howard. However, a person with knowledge of the situation said Wednesday, "The Magic are in no rush to do anything." The team's top priority remains to find a way to keep Howard in Orlando.

League sources confirmed that talks between the Nets and Magic gained momentum in recent days and that New Jersey was working on a complicated set of scenarios to land Howard that could involve one or two other teams. But the biggest hurdle was uncertainty over whether the Magic are ready to give up on trying to persuade Howard to stay in Orlando.

A person familiar with the discussions described them as "very complicated," and two other people confirmed that one scenario would have looped in the Trail Blazers as a third team to provide swingman Gerald Wallace as a second primary piece along with Nets center Brook Lopez in a package for Howard. As part of the deal, New Jersey also would have taken back Hedo Turkoglu and the $34 million left on his contract.

But a league source told CBSSports.com Wednesday that the scenario as currently constructed with Wallace joining Lopez in Orlando as the primary pieces was not enough to persuade the Magic to move forward with the deal.

"If people think things are imminent, then they're being led down the wrong path," the person said.

An executive within the league who is familiar with Orlando's situation said the expectation remains that the Magic will once again revisit trade scenarios for Howard, but not until after All-Star weekend -- which is being held in Orlando Feb. 24-26. The trade deadline during this shortened 66-game season will be March 15.

The Magic are determined to avoid another Shaq scenario -- when Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in 1996 and the team got nothing in return. If the only option is to trade Howard, sources said the team will be take its time to find the right deal. GM Otis Smith will not, and has not, limited himself to exploring deals with the three teams Howard has signaled he's willing to sign a long-term deal with -- the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, sources said.

Among the factors fueling the Nets' heightened pursuit of Howard was the re-emergence of the Lakers in the Chris Paul trade discussions Tuesday, which led rival executives to believe that the Lakers were more focused on landing Paul than Howard. But the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was engaged in conversations about both superstars, and people with direct knowledge of Howard's strategy have had the Lakers at the top of his wish list since at least February 2010. The Nets, who are moving to a new arena in Brookyn in 2012, became more attractive when the team acquired All-Star point guard Deron Williams this past February.

Another factor that ramped up the Nets-Magic talks was free-agent big man Nene's decision to stay in Denver with a five-year, $67 million contract. Nene was atop the Nets' free-agent wish list, but their primary objective since acquiring Williams has been to land Howard -- either in a trade or as a free agent next summer.

The Mavericks, the third team on Howard's list of preferred trade destinations, have continued to dutifully clear 2012 cap space in an effort that is geared toward a possible run at Howard if he gets to free agency or Williams, who went to high school in the Dallas area, if he is not persuaded to stay with the Nets after he opts out of his contract and becomes a free agent on July 1.

Last week, the Magic gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. But sources said the team has no intention of limiting its options to those teams if and when it decides that there's no other choice but to trade Howard. As long as the team can endure the media circus, the Magic can afford to wait for a better deal -- with the hope, sources said, that adding another piece to the team in the meantime and starting the season on a winning note between the Christmas opener and the All-Star break would help persuade Howard to stay.

In fact, although Howard complained last week about the lack of input he'd been given in personnel decisions, the facts do not agree. While Howard disagreed with the decision to waive Gilbert Arenas with the amnesty provision, Arenas wouldn't have been in Orlando to begin with if not for Howard, who is close to him. The move didn't work out, and the organization had no choice but to take advantage of the amnesty clause, which allows it to wipe Arenas' massive contract off the cap and tax and use the flexibility gained to improve the team.

A league source said Howard also requested that Smith acquire Glen "Big Baby" Davis from the Celtics, which he did in recent days in a trade for Brandon Bass.

"He's been as involved as any superstar on any team," the league source said.

The Magic also have to address changes in the front office, with former team president Alex Martins suddenly taking over as CEO for Bob Vander Weide. How the new hierarchy is handled could have an impact on the timing and terms of any Howard trade, sources said. But while the Magic can afford to be patient, perhaps all the way to the March 15 trade deadline, the team can't play chicken with Howard for too long. Under provisions of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Magic would not be able to hold out for the worst-case scenario of a sign-and-trade because such a maneuver no longer provides a free agent with maximum length and dollars when he leaves his team.

If Orlando waited Howard out through the season and called his bluff that he wouldn't choose, say, a four-year, $76 million free-agent deal with the Nets over the five-year, $100 million the Magic could offer, they would have no sign-and-trade recourse if that's what Howard decided to do. The stakes also are exceedingly high for the Nets, who would face losing Williams under similar circumstances.
Posted on: December 14, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: December 14, 2011 11:59 am
 

CP3 developments push Nets' pursuit of Howard

So now we know why the Magic never filed those tampering charges against the Nets.

For one thing, the latest developments in the Chris Paul saga point to New Jersey (i.e. Brooklyn) moving into prime position to land All-Star center Dwight Howard in a trade -- if Orlando decides to go that route.

Or so the Nets hope.

The Lakers re-entered the Paul trade talks Tuesday night, and would need a third team to funnel the young prospects to New Orleans along with Pau Gasol in return for the gifted point guard. Clippers brass were unfazed by these developments, sources told CBSSports.com, having expected that the Lakers would re-enter the talks at some point -- either for real or for leverage purposes.

UPDATE: The re-emergence of the Lakers, who had a three-team trade for Paul also involving Houston fall through when league executives deemed it too expensive and not yielding enough young talent for New Orleans, combined with other factors Tuesday to signal that the Nets' pursuit of Howard was about to reach a new level of urgency. One of those factors was free-agent big man Nene, one of the Nets' top free-agent targets, agreeing to a five-year, $67 million deal to stay in Denver.

If the Lakers sent Gasol to New Orleans for Paul, they presumably could not find enough talent elsewhere to include in a separate deal for Howard as well -- although the Los Angeles Times reported that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak was engaged in conversations about both Paul and Howard. The Mavericks, the third team on Howard's list of preferred trade destinations, continued to dutifully clear 2012 cap space Tuesday, an effort sources say is geared toward a possible run at Howard if he gets to free agency or Texan Deron Williams if he is not persuaded to stay with the Nets when the team moves to Brooklyn in 2012.

League sources confirmed that talks between the Nets and Magic gained momentum in recent days and that New Jersey was working on a complicated set of scenarios to land Howard that could involve one or two other teams. The Nets are "pushing hard," a source said, but the biggest hurdle was uncertainty over whether the Magic are ready to give up on trying to persuade Howard to stay in Orlando.

A person familiar with the discussions described them as "very complicated," and two other people confirmed that one scenario would loop in the Trail Blazers as a third team to provide swingman Gerald Wallace as a second primary piece along with Nets center Brook Lopez in a package for Howard. As part of the deal, New Jersey also would have to take back Hedo Turkoglu and the $34 million left on his contract.

UPDATE: A league source told CBSSports.com that the Magic are "not in a rush to do anything," and that the team's first priority is to keep Howard. The scenario as currently constructed with Wallace joining Lopez in Orlando as the primary pieces is not enough to persuade the organization to move forward with the deal quickly, the person said.

"If people think things are imminent, then they're being led down the wrong path," the person said.

The organization is determined, however, to avoid another Shaq scenario -- when Shaquille O'Neal left Orlando as a free agent in 1996 and the team got nothing in return. If the only option is to trade Howard, sources said the team will be take its time to find the right deal. GM Otis Smith will not, and has not, limited himself to exploring deals with the three teams Howard has signaled he's willing to sign a long-term deal with -- the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks, sources said.

Though it isn't certain yet whether the Magic are ready to go through with a deal parting with Howard, Orlando seems to be seeking some elements of the kind of package New Jersey worked for months to assemble for Denver last season in its pursuit of Carmelo Anthony: a combination of established players, prospects and draft picks. Given Howard's stature and the stakes for both teams, this package will have to be substantially more valuable -- and thus, more difficult to assemble.

Which brings us back to those tampering charges that never materialized.

The Magic last week were weighing the possibility of filing a tampering charge against the Nets over a reported meeting in Miami involving Howard and Nets officials. The alleged meeting occurred before Smith gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. A league source told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the potential tampering charges are "on the back burner" while the team weighs its options. Knowing that the Nets may turn out to be the best trade partner, the Magic were reluctant to burn that bridge before the negotiations even got off the ground, sources said.

A lot is in flux in the Magic front office, with team president Alex Martins taking over as CEO for the departed Bob Vander Weide, and now the brass are trying to evaluate what is the best option for dealing with the Howard situation, sources said. 

"There's going to be a little bit of a bidding process if anybody wants him," an executive within the league said Tuesday.

The Nets' pursuit of Howard is tied to their acquisition of Williams from the Jazz last season, and now is inexorably linked to the Paul talks, which are perhaps the most complicated trade negotiation in NBA history. League executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson, acting on behalf of the 29 owners who have custody of the franchise, are running the talks for the Hornets. After being declared dead Monday, negotiations between the Clippers and league office reignited later that evening and continued Tuesday -- with the Clippers waiting for the price for Paul to come down since they were the only team bidding for him. 

The Clippers' successful waiver claim of veteran point guard Chauncey Billups undoubtedly helped that effort, as Clippers GM Neil Olshey was then free to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal. But Olshey was still unwilling to part with both sharpshooter Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick, and that was primarily the reason no conclusion was reached Tuesday, sources said. 

The best the Nets can offer for Howard is Lopez, a less accomplished but more durableversion of the Lakers' Andrew Bynum, plus multiple first-round picks and a signed-and-traded Kris Humphries. But the Nets have been exploring ways to bring in a third or even fourth team that could convey more assets to Orlando, and New Jersey GM Billy King has signaled to associates that such a maneuver won't be a problem. King has proved to be one of the most adept executives in the league at assembling complicated, multi-team deals.
Posted on: December 13, 2011 10:27 pm
 

Nene re-signs with Nuggets

The Nuggets are keeping this free agent, agreeing to terms Tuesday night with Nene for five years and $67 million, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to CBSSports.com.

Nene attracted significant interest from the Nets, Rockets and Pacers, among others, but decided to stay in Denver on a day when the team acquired Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer from Dallas into the trade exception left behind from the Carmelo Anthony trade last February.

The next order of business for Denver, which still has room to do more shopping, is to re-sign restricted free agent Arron Afflalo. A person with knowledge of those discussions said the two sides were making "good progress" toward a deal Tuesday night.

Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri met with Nene and his representatives Monday night, one of several meetings the team has had with its free-agent big man. Other meetings have included owner Josh Kroenke and coach George Karl.
 
The Rockets had hoped to pair Nene with Pau Gasol, but a three-team trade sending Chris Paul from New Orleans to the Lakers fell through. The Nets targeted Nene in the free-agent market but also have been pursuing a trade for Magic center Dwight Howard, a 2012 free agent who has been given permission to discuss a potential trade with New Jersey, the Lakers and Dallas.
 
Posted on: December 13, 2011 12:02 am
Edited on: December 13, 2011 12:02 pm
 

Clippers still resisting CP3 deal

UPDATED 12:01 p.m. ET

The Clippers were still resisting overtures for a Chris Paul trade Tuesday after the talks were revived for the second time in 24 hours under pressure from the league office to reach a resolution, sources told CBSSports.com.

Having claimed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers as a possible precursor to the deal, the Clippers nonetheless were under no pressure to dive back into the talks. The league office, which is assisting the Hornets in the trade discussions in its role as the de factor owner of the team, already has nixed a trade that would've sent Paul to the Lakers. The Knicks used what few assets and cap maneuverability they had to get free-agent center Tyson Chandler, and Paul has not indicated a willingness to give a long-term commitment as part of a trade to the Golden State Warriors.

"They have no choice" but to make sure Paul is traded to the Clippers, a person on the periphery of the talks said Monday night.

The talks that would never die were revived Monday night, with a twist that was enraging some rival general managers. The Clippers' winning waiver claim on Billups allowed them to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal, which observers believed could push it over the finish line, league sources told CBSSports.com.

By claiming Billups for about $2 million, the Clippers were able to solve the dilemma of not having another point guard on the roster -- Mo Williams likely slides into the Jason Terry sixth man role, if he isn't included in the trade or waived with amnesty. Thus, L.A. could responsibly include Bledsoe in a blockbuster package for Paul.

The fact that Paul is dictating the terms by limiting the teams he'd agree to stay at least two years with to those that reside in L.A., Clippers GM Neil Olshey has plenty of leverage. So Olshey's resistance to including Bledsoe, sharpshooting guard Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick is no longer an issue. The deal, if finally consummated, will be better than what the league was demanding earlier in the day, when the Clippers wisely walked away from the talks.

Nonetheless, the Clippers were signaling to rival teams that they've "moved on" from the Paul saga and already had reached out to Billups in an effort to assure him his status as a leader and intergral part of the team were secure, sources said. Another person tied to the talks said he does not believe the league wants Paul traded out of New Orleans, where prospective owners are being sought to rescue the troubled franchise.

"Seems like a charade to me," the person said.

That set up a fascinating duel of who has the leverage and whether the franchise would be more valuable with or without Paul. In rejecting the three-team trade with the Lakers and Rockets, the league office obviously was saying that the franchise would be better off keeping Paul than trading him for veteran players Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, plus draft picks. A package from the Clippers including Chris Kaman's expiring $12 million contract, Al-Farouq Aminu, Bledsoe and either Eric Gordon or the Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round pick would seem to allow the Hornets to rebuild with prospects and picks -- which certainly would be preferable to Paul leaving as a free agent after the season with the Hornets getting nothing in return.

Paul's options, however, would be somewhat limited since the major-market teams he prefers are mostly capped out next summer, starting with his preferred destination, the Knicks. Paul would, however, have the option of going to Dallas, or to Brooklyn if Deron Williams opted out and decided to sign with his hometown Mavericks. Both players would have to take one year and about $25 million less than their current teams would be able to offer them under the new collective bargaining agreement.

The Paul negotiations were declared dead earlier Monday, after which Olshey spoke with the Los Angeles media and said, "We felt it was in the best interest of the team to keep this roster intact." But rival executives were circulating this conspiracy theory Monday night: Was it a coincidence that the Clippers were able to get Billups for $2 million when they were negotiating a related trade with the league office, which knew the competing bids?  The salacious banter was perpetuated by the conflict of interest inherent in the NBA's handling of the trade for the Hornets, who were taken over by the league in December 2010. 

A previous deal sending Paul to the Lakers was nixed by the league office in its role as overseer for the Hornets' personnel moves when commissioner David Stern and executives Joel Litvin and Stu Jackson determined that the package of players New Orleans was getting from the Lakers and Rockets wasn't acceptable. While rival GMs saw little problem with a package of Odom, Scola, Martin, Dragic and draft picks, the league wanted younger prospects and draft picks instead -- a package closer to what the Clippers have to offer, which would be more attractive to prospective buyers.

While it was understood that Paul would gladly sign a new five-year, $100 million contract next July with the Lakers if traded there, his commitment to the Clippers would only be for two years. As part of the deal, Paul would not promise to sign a new contract, only that he would not opt out of his current one after the season, sources said. That, and the league's limited options for trade partners, compressed the list of assets the Clippers were willing to give up.

The two-year period would give Paul time to survey the landscape in Clipperland and determine what notoriously penny-pinching owner Donald Sterling would do in two years with an $11 million center (DeAndre Jordan, whose four-year, $43 million offer sheet from Golden State was matched Monday); a 30 percent max player under the new rules in Blake Griffin; a close-to-max player in Gordon, if he stays; and himself. Those are a lot of big bills for the Donald, and Paul would need assurances that the Clippers are going to fully capitalize on their unique position of talent and cap flexibility and stop being second-class citizens to the Lakers at Staples Center.

As for Billups, a proud champion who'd warned teams not to claim him so he could pick his own team as an unrestricted free agent, does it make sense for him to spend perhaps the final year of his career on the Clippers' bench, watching Paul dribble between his legs and throw alley-oop passes to Griffin?

"That is not the league's concern," said a rival executive who is upset about the arrangement.

In finding the Billups solution to getting the Paul deal a chance to be completed, the league also sent a letter to Billups' agent, Andy Miller, warning him that there could be consequences if Billups caused problems for a team that claimed him off waivers, Yahoo Sports reported. Billups was waived with the amnesty provision by the Knicks to create room for a sign-and-trade arrangement that landed free-agent center Tyson Chandler in New York. Billups' $14.2 million salary came off the Knicks' books for cap and tax purposes, and the actual financial obligation to New York is offset by the $2 million that will be paid by the Clippers.

In a cruel double-whammy, Billups would become a pawn in delivering a superstar to a major market for the secod time in 10 months if the Paul-to-Clippers deal went down. In February, Billups was a necessary piece that facilitated the trade of Carmelo Anthony from Denver to the Knicks in another saga in which a star player threatened to bolt as a free agent if he wasn't traded to the team of his choice.

"I'm tired of being viewed as the good guy," Billups told Yahoo Saturday. "After a while, you just kind of get taken advantage of in these situations."
Posted on: December 11, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: December 11, 2011 2:36 am
 

Lakers pull out of Paul talks

A tortured three-team trade that would've sent Chris Paul to the Lakers fell apart Saturday night when the Lakers and Rockets were unable to satisfy criteria set forth by the NBA, which owns the Hornets, three people with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com.

The Lakers immediately shifted gears and agreed to trade Lamar Odom to Dallas for draft picks, a move that rival executives and a person briefed on the team's basketball strategies viewed as a precursor for a push to acquire Dwight Howard from Orlando.

Odom goes into a trade exception created when the Mavericks signed and traded center Tyson Chandler to the Knicks in a complicated, three-team deal, setting the stage for the Lakers to seriously engage the Magic in talks to acquire Howard, who on Saturday admitted that he'd requested to be traded.

CBSSports.com confirmed reports that Howard requested to be traded to the New Jersey Nets, but two people with direct knowledge of Howard's plans said Saturday that the All-Star center has long wanted to play in Los Angeles. Howard's affinity for the city is so strong that sources said the Lakers' co-tenants in Staples Center, the Clippers, should not be ruled out as a trade partner for Orlando.

The entire league will be trying to acquire Howard in the coming days now that his trade request is public and the Magic have acknowledged giving his agent, Dan Fegan, permission to discuss trade possibilities with the Lakers, Nets and Mavericks. But the Lakers are the only team capable of offering an All-Star 7-footer, Pau Gasol, and a potential All-Star 7-footer, Andrew Bynum -- while also being willing and able to take Hedo Turkoglu and his poisonous contract. 

The Rockets, who were supposed to get Gasol in the various versions of the ill-fated, three-team Paul trade, were said to be disconsolate over the breakdown in the talks. League sources said Houston's plan had been to acquire Gasol and follow it up by acquiring free-agent big man Nene with a four-year, $60-$64 million offer.

As disappointed as the Rockets and Lakers were, the Hornets' coaching staff and front office were said to be in "collective shock," according to a person in touch with key members of the team. The breakdown of the Paul trade sent the Hornets scrambling for another suitor for the All-Star point guard, who has made it clear he wants to be traded or will leave New Orleans as an unrestricted free agent after the season.

The Hornets' coaching staff had been "ecstatic" when the initial deal was agreed to Thursday sending Odom to New Orleans from the Lakers and Luis Scola and Kevin Martin from the Rockets, among other pieces, until commissioner David Stern rejected it in his role as the final decision-maker for the owner-less Hornets for what the league described as "basketball reasons."

"It was like going from the highest of the highs to the lowest of the lows," the person in touch with the Hornets' decision-makers said. "The kind of pieces that they got, the kind of players they got and how they were going to use them, they were just really excited."

The key to the deal from the Hornets' perspective, was Scola. Hornets coach Monty Williams also had been looking forward to the opportunity to coach Odom, a supremely talented player he believed he had a chance to reach and coach to his full potential.

Other teams, including the Clippers, Warriors and Celtics, were putting other moves on hold until the Lakers' pursuit of Paul reached a fork in the road. But given that the NBA blocked the initial trade sending Paul to the Lakers Thursday, and set forth conditions as the Hornets' functioning ownership that the three teams couldn't meet, it's difficult to imagine executives jumping into another Paul soap opera not knowing what the parameters for a deal would be.

"Everyone is scared" to deal with the Hornets about Paul now, a person plugged into the discussions said early Sunday.

Still, one front office executive said that talks with the Warriors and Clippers about a Paul trade would now be reignited. Previous discussions stalled when the Clippers refused to include sharpshooter Eric Gordon in the deal, and the leverage New Orleans had to hold out for a better offer is now gone -- ironically, killed by the league's refusal to approve deals that the Hornets' basketball staff supported as a way to avoid losing Paul for nothing. In an ill-conceived effort to strengthen the assets New Orleans would receive for Paul, the league has left the woebegone franchise in the unthinkable predicament of getting stuck with the disgruntled superstar and having him make the franchise-crippling decision of leaving as a free agent without any compensation.

Among the most coveted assets the Clippers possess is Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick, which in a strong draft could be the piece that finally pushes a CP3 trade to its merciful conclusion. Under normal business conditions, the Clippers wouldn't have to offer such a valuable asset after other avenues fell through for the Hornets. But with the league office calling the shots, this is anything but business as usual.

Really, only one thing was certain early as the aftermath of the Paul saga circulated through front offices across the league. However it's resolved, the logical next step could be a courtroom when, as one team executive said, "The lawsuits start flying."

While some executives and agents were confused as to why the Lakers didn’t seriously engage the Magic in trade discussions that would’ve sent Bynum and Gasol to Orlando for Howard and Turkoglu in the first place, sources said the answer was simple: the Lakers want to try to position themselves to land both Paul and Howard.

“They got greedy,” one person briefed on the situation said.

Despite sources confirming that Howard had requested to be traded to the Nets – a team that has been on his list since at least February – two people with knowledge of his plans said he views L.A. as a better fit for his off-court aspirations. The conflicting signals from Howard are similar to what Magic executives have experienced over the past year as the All-NBA center has frequently changed his mind about whether he wants to stay in Orlando or not.

The Magic, attempting to avoid the scenario that saw them lose franchise center Shaquille O'Neal as a free agent in 1996 and get nothing in return, are adamant about exhausting trade possibilities with teams whether they are on Howard’s list of preferred destinations or not.

As high as the stakes are for Orlando, they were equally high for New Jersey, which traded Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks last season for point guard Deron Williams without any assurances that Williams would still be with the team when it moves to a new arena in Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season. If Howard lands with the Lakers, and New Jersey fails to land Nene, the Nets' efforts to surround Williams with enough talent to sign a long-term deal next summer would be on life support. Front office sources, however, believed that Nene's motivation for signing with Houston would've been to play alongside Gasol -- who is still, to his delight, a Laker for now but will now have to deal with speculation that Orlando will be his new home before long.

Talks to send Paul to the Lakers were revived Friday afternoon after Stern took the stunning step of killing the deal in its previous form. The goal was to tweak the deal in a way that allowed New Orleans to come away with younger players and more draft picks, the directive issued by the commissioner's office after a trade that would've sent the Hornets three bonafide starters, a solid backup, and a mid-first-round pick was deemed not good enough.

Stern must approve any transaction as monumental as a Paul trade not as commissioner, but as the final decision-maker for the Hornets in their absence of an owner since the league took over the franchise in 2010 from George Shinn. The deal consummated Thursday would've sent Paul to the Lakers, who would've Gasol to the Rockets and Odom to the Hornets. New Orleans also would've received Martin, Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick from Houston -- a solid haul by Hornets GM Dell Demps under the circumstances in the eyes of many of his fellow executives.

Paul, among the biggest stars and most electrifying guards in the league, has an early-termination option after the season and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He already has declined a contract extension with New Orleans, and it is a foregone conclusion that he would leave as a free agent with his preferred destination being the Knicks.

New York, which last season added Amar'e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, decided not to wait for the Paul saga to play itself out and acquired Chandler in a sign-and-trade that gave the Knicks among the most formidable frontcourts in the NBA. It was through some creative cap maneuvering -- words perhaps never before associated with the franchise -- that the Knicks were able to jump ahead of the heavily favored Warriors and land Chandler. By transforming the deal into a sign-and-trade, Mavs owner Mark Cuban created the space to acquire Odom, one of the most skilled and versatile big men in the league who he has long coveted.

In another domino effect of this furious post-lockout player movement, the Warriors plan to sign Clippers restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan to a four-year, $40 million offer sheet Sunday after they clear the cap space to accommodate his first-year salary of about $9 million. The Warriors also had been engaged in trade talks with the Hornets for Paul, but were unwilling to include guard Stephen Curry in the discussions.

Posted on: December 10, 2011 1:27 am
Edited on: December 10, 2011 9:50 pm
 

Revised deal reached to send Paul to L.A.

The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets reached agreement on the framework of a revised trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers Saturday, pending the resolution of some moving parts and approval by the commissioner's office, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.

Houston would still get Pau Gasol from the Lakers in the three-team swap, while the Rockets would send Luis Scola and Kevin Martin to the Hornets, as in the original version that was killed by commissioner David Stern in his role as final decision-maker on major personnel moves for the league-owned Hornets.

It wasn't immediately clear how the Hornets were satisfying the league directive to acquire young players and valuable draft picks in the deal, but one minor tweak that New Orleans GM Dell Demps was trying to add was the inclusion of second-year forward Devin Ebanks from the Lakers. By late afternoon, it appeared likely that the Lakers would keep Ebanks and that the additional young talent going to New Orleans would be coming from the Rockets, who are seeking to follow up their acquisition of Gasol by signing free-agent Nene to a four-year deal for $60-$64 million, sources said.

UPDATE: The latest incarnation of the deal Saturday night also was expected to include an additional first-round pick for New Orleans that the Lakers were attempting to acquire from a fourth team, two people briefed on the talks said.

There were no indications that Andrew Bynum would be included in the new iteration of the trade, or that Emeka Okafor and the $41 million left on his contract would be going to the Lakers. While that substantial adjustment to the original deal terms might satisfy the league's objective to have Paul replaced in New Orleans by a combination of young talent and better financial books, it would also run counter to the Lakers' goal of trying to acquire Paul as a table-setter for a run at 2012 free agent center Dwight Howard.

UPDATE: While some observers were confused as to why the Lakers wouldn't seriously engage the Magic in trade discussions that would send Bynum and Gasol to Orlando for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu's poisonous contract, sources said the answer was simple: the Lakers want to try to position themselves to land both Paul and Howard. A person directly involved in the Howard sweepstakes confirmed to CBSSports.com a report by Yahoo Sports that Howard has requested a trade to the New Jersey Nets. Howard requested to be traded in two separate conversations with GM Otis Smith since Monday, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

However, a person involved in Howard's decision-making process maintained Saturday that the Lakers were by no means out of the picture -- and that, in fact, Howard views L.A. as a better fit for his off-court aspirations. The conflicting signals from Howard are similar to what Magic executives have experienced over the past year as the All-NBA center has frequently changed his mind about whether he wants to stay in Orlando or not.

The Magic, attempting to avoid the scenario that saw them lose franchise center Shaquille O'Neal as a free agent in 1996 and get nothing in return, gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with three teams about a potential trade: the Lakers, Nets and Mavericks

As high as the stakes are for Orlando, they were equally high for New Jersey, which traded Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks last season for point guard Deron Williams without any assurances that Williams would still be with the team when it moves to a new arena in Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season. If Howard were traded elsewhere, and if Nene decided to join Gasol in Houston in the aftermath of a potential Paul trade, the Nets' efforts to surround Williams with enough talent to sign a long-term deal next summer would be on life support.

Though Howard clearly is the biggest prize in this game of musical chairs among future free agents, his future and the status Nene -- who also has close to a max offer on the table from New Jersey -- are on hold until the outcome of the Paul saga is determined. Stern must approve any transaction as monumental as a Paul trade not as commissioner, but as the final decision-maker for the Hornets in their absence of an owner since the league took over the franchise in 2010 from George Shinn.

The Paul talks were revived Friday afternoon after Stern took the stunning step of killing the deal in its previous form. The goal was to tweak the deal in a way that allowed New Orleans to come away with younger players and more draft picks, the directive issued by the commissioner's office after a trade that would've sent the Hornets three bonafide starters, a solid backup, and a mid-first-round pick was deemed not good enough.

There is no deadline, per se, to complete the deal. But the three teams want to reach a conclusion one way or another as early as Saturday to avoid any further awkwardness and wasted time in a training camp that already is shortened by the abrupt end to the 149-day lockout.

The deal consummated Thursday would've sent Paul to the Lakers, who would've Gasol to the Rockets and Lamar Odom to the Hornets. New Orleans also would've received Martin, Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick from Houston -- a solid haul by Demps under the circumstances in the eyes of many of his fellow executives.

Paul, among the biggest stars and most electrifying guards in the league, has an early-termination option after the season and can become an unrestricted free agent July 1. He already has declined a contract extension with New Orleans, and it is a foregone conclusion that he would leave as a free agent with his preferred destination being the Knicks.

But given that the Knicks didn't have cap space to offer Paul a max deal next season even before solidifying their defense with the imminent addition of center Tyson Chandler, the consolation prize of joining the Lakers with the opportunity to sign a five-year, $100 million deal after the season certainly would be enticing to Paul. 

Where the younger assets would come from was still being negotiated early Saturday, with potential candidates to go to New Orleans being Patrick Patterson, Courtney Lee and an assembly of draft picks, according to an executive briefed on the talks.

While the commissioner has veto authority over all trades, it is typically only invoked if rules were broken or the deal doesn't comply with salary cap rules. In this instance, the league office is involved because the NBA bought the Hornets from previous owner George Shinn, putting Stern in concert with appointed team governor Jac Sperling on all major personnel decisions.

Rival team executives and agents expressed doubts Friday about how Paul could be dealt to a team other than the Lakers after Stern's well publicized nixing of the original deal components. If Paul were traded, for example, to the Celtics, who initially pursued him with a trade centered around point guard Rajon Rondo, the league would be unable to explain why Paul could be traded to the Celtics and not the Lakers. The league office's role was not supposed to be to decide which teams the Hornetsd do business with, but to ensure that the "best interests of the Hornets" were satisfied, according to a statement from the NBA Friday. 

If Demps were unable to trade Paul in the wake of Stern's trade denial, it would be difficult to comprehend how the Hornets' "best interests" would be satisfied by the star leaving as a free agent in July with the Hornets receiving nothing in return.





Posted on: December 9, 2011 4:17 pm
Edited on: December 10, 2011 2:52 am
 

Magic considering tampering charge vs. Nets

Even as the NBA launched into damage-control mode Friday over commissioner David Stern's rejection of a trade sending Chris Paul to the Lakers, another firestorm started. The Orlando Magic were considering tampering charges against the New Jersey Nets, front office sources confirmed to CBSSports.com.

The charges would stem from an alleged meeting between Dwight Howard and Nets representatives in Miami in recent days as New Jersey prepared a blockbuster trade offer to land the All-Star center. ESPN.com reported that the meeting was attended by Howard, some of his business associates, Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and Nets general manager Billy King.

Howard told ESPN.com, "There was no meeting." Prokhorov's spokeswoman, Ellen Pinchuk, did not respond to a request for comment, but King issued a statement Friday echoing Howard's denial.

"Contrary to published reports," King said, "the New Jersey Nets did not meet with Dwight Howard." 

UPDATE: The Magic on Friday night gave Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with three teams -- the Lakers, Nets and Mavericks -- about a potential trade, a person familiar with the decision told CBSSports.com. But at the time of the reported meeting between Howard and Prokhorov, no permission had been given, the person said.

"I've seen the report, but I have no idea whether he met with them or not," Magic CEO Alex Martins said. "And so we'll certainly look into that. But at this stage, it's just a report."

Orlando's goal remains to retain Howard, but the organization has made the decision that it will not suffer the same fate as when Shaquille O'Neal left as a free agent in 1996 and the team received nothing in return. Also, Magic GM Otis Smith will not have Howard's destination in a trade dictated to him by Howard or his agent, a person with knowledge of the organization's strategy told CBSSports.com.

It was a second straight day of buffoonery for the NBA as it tried, and failed miserably, to shake off the effects of a five-month lockout and launch abbreviated training camps and free agency Friday. The season starts in 16 days, and two of the league's biggest stars evidently are frozen in their cities while other teams struggled to field enough bodies to hold training-camp practices. 

"Bizarre," said one general manager who was navigating the madness.

The league does not investigate possible instances of tampering unless it receives a specific charge from one of its teams. The aspects of the rules that would apply to Howard's alleged meeting with Nets officials is that teams are not permitted to speak with players under contract with another team without that team's permission. The Magic evidently had no knowledge of whether Howard was meeting with Nets officials, though Orlando GM Otis Smith would certainly be well aware of the Nets' desire to acquire their superstar.

Since joining half the league in clearing 2010 cap space and failing to land one of the top free agents last summer, the Nets pursued and failed to land Carmelo Anthony, who ultimately was traded to the Knicks. New Jersey responded by sending Derrick Favors, Devin Harris and two first-round picks to Utah for star point guard Deron Williams, whom they are now feverishly working to build around and keep him from leaving as a free agent after the 66-game 2011-12 season. In addition to preparing a trade offer for Howard that would include center Brook Lopez and two first-round picks, the Nets also were courting Nene and were telling some teams Friday they were closing in on the free-agent big man.

Several people on the periphery of the discussions said Friday night that, by all appearances, the Nets were closer to landing Nene than trading for Howard.

Howard has been careful not to publicly request or demand a trade. But his close associates have insisted for more than a year that Howard was looking to land in a marquee market, with Los Angeles and New York at the top of his list for obvious reasons. The Nets, who are moving to Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season, would fit Howard's desires, sources have told CBSSports.com.

As if that weren't enough news for one team for one day, the Magic also announced Friday they were waiving guard Gilbert Arenas and using the collective bargaining agreement's new amnesty provision to wipe the $19.3 million he is due this season off their cap and tax. Teams that are under the cap will have a chance to bid on assuming a certain percentage of Arenas' contract, with the winning team's bid offsetting Orlando's financial obligation to the former All-Star.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com