The Lakers agreed to the framework of a deal to acquire star point guard Chris Paul Thursday, only to have the trade imperiled amid an uproar from owners disgusted with the fruits of a new collective bargaining agreement, an ownership source confirmed to CBSSports.com.
"Dead," is how the person described the deal, which was supposed to send Paul to L.A. in a three-team trade also involving the Houston Rockets.
Yahoo Sports and ESPN.com first reported the incomprehensible developments, and team executives who had been on the periphery of the Paul trade talks were unsure if the deal had been killed by the league office or had merely hit a snag.
Either way, the hours after players and owners voted to approve a new CBA ending the five-month lockout will go down as among the most bizarre in NBA history.
"WoW," Paul tweeted upon learning of reports that his trade to the Lakers was on the verge of being nixed.
Yahoo reported that owners were "irate" with Stern in Thursday's Board of Governors meeting, challenging the commissioner for the business-as-usual rampage of big-market teams preying on stars before the deal was even ratified -- and before the league had even officially re-opened for business, which is supposed to happen at 2 p.m. ET Friday.
"Pathetic," one team executive said Thursday in response to developments that included the Knicks maneuvering for cap space in preparation for signing top free agent Tyson Chandler and then the Paul deal to L.A.
NBA spokesman Tim Frank said it was "not true" that owners killed the deal. "It wasn't even discussed at the board meeting," he said. "The league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons."
The developments were "unbelievable," said another team executive, given that the league-owned Hornets had been allowed to conduct basketball business without interference from the league office since the other 29 owners assumed temporary ownership of the woebegone franchise in December 2010. Also, the league office technically was not supposed to be open to evaluate, approve or disapprove trades until Friday.
The trade was supposed to send Paul to Los Angeles and Pau Gasol from the Lakers to the Rockets, who would've sent Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to the Hornets. New Orleans also would've received Lamar Odom from the Lakers. While rival executives were stunned with how rapidly Hornets GM Dell Demps moved to rid the franchise of Paul, who has clamored privately and through back channels for more than a year to exit New Orleans, some nonetheless were impressed with the haul of players and picks the Hornets were able to obtain for a trade that essentially was done on a firesale basis.
Demps, a former Spurs executive groomed by San Antonio GM R.C. Buford, had taken a proactive approach to the Paul dilemma and indicated to fellow execs in recent days that he had no intention of letting the saga drag out for months the way the Nuggets were embroiled in a similar controversy with Carmelo Anthony before trading him to the Knicks last season.
Now, the Hornets appear to be destined for even more drama, discontent and derangement than they ever imagined.
Same for the NBA.