The Clippers will send guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round pick to the Hornets for Paul. The Clippers will also receive two future second-round picks.
The deal required the approval of NBA commissioner David Stern.
The move puts an end to a tortured week in which the Hornets’ season sat in limbo while the NBA took a public relations beating over everything from potential conflicts of interest, to stunting the Hornets’ pursuit of free agents, to disrespecting the New Orleans fan base.
“I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job,” Stern said. “You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasn’t a lot of fun, but I don’t get paid to have fun.”
Stern said he never allowed other owners’ opinions or considerations of large and small markets to determine where Paul, one of the NBA’s biggest stars, would end up. He said his only focus was on getting the best deal for the Hornets.
The Hornets at last have a measure of certainty about the roster they’ll have when the regular season begins in less than two weeks.
Paul, already a star with international appeal, gets to play in one of the NBA’s biggest markets, even if his new team plays in the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers. That’s the club Paul was almost traded to last week, only to have Stern nix the deal and unleash a torrent of bad publicity on his league just as it was trying to generate good will following a nearly five-month labor dispute that has already caused a shortening of the season.
“I didn’t know it was going to happen. I was told yesterday that it wasn’t going to be done,” Kaman told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “Everybody thought it was nixed, that it was dead. Then I guess something came back up today.
“I don’t know what to expect, I don’t know what to anticipate. I’m just going to try to move forward and play basketball like I’m capable of doing.”
The 26-year-old Paul, a four-time All-Star, averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 assists last season, his sixth in the NBA. His move to the Clippers means he’ll now be able to make alley-oop lobs to a young star famous for dunking over a car. That would be forward Blake Griffin, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, his first as a pro.
The Hornets, meanwhile, get a prolific young shooting guard in Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas Day and averaged 22.3 points last season. The 6-foot-9 Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie.
According to NBA.com, Gordon was on a bus with Clippers season ticket holders, making fan stops when he got word of the trade. Gordon told ESPNLosAngeles.com the deal was “disappointing.”
“People in the organization were telling me I was going to probably stay here, stick around,” he said. “But you don’t know who to trust or follow, give you a lead on anything. I’m just going to take it for how it is. It is kind of tough to swallow, but I’m just a basketball player. I’m not going to have any hard feelings about it.”
Hornets general manager Dell Demps said the team reloaded for both the present and the future.
“With this trade, we now have three additional players who were among the top eight draft picks in their respective drafts as well as our own first round pick and Minnesota’s first round pick,” Demps said in a statement released by the team. “Aminu is a young talent with a bright future, Gordon is a big-time scorer and one of the best (shooting) guards in the league and Kaman is a proven center and former All-Star. … We will field a competitive team and our future looks great.”
Kaman had his own theory as to why the Clippers worked out the trade.
“To be honest with you, I think all that has to do with Blake Griffin. Blake is one of the most talented players playing basketball. He’s a highlight reel waiting to happen,” he said. “Chris Paul is going to love that. He’s got an opportunity to come in here and do big things.
“I think the team is pretty much set up for (Blake). The four and five is done, locked in.Caron Butler is a great three-man. He’s got Chauncey (Billups) and Randy Foye coming in at the two-spot. Now Chris Paul, All-Star point guard. What else can you ask for?”
Lakers star Kobe Bryant, whose team had been pursuing Paul, thinks the trade will be good for the city of L.A.
“It’s good to see them (the Clippers) being that aggressive and wanting to make the next step,” he said. “They got Blake (Griffin), who I think the world of him and CP (Paul) who I like as well, so, I think it’s good for L.A. to have two teams that are competitive.”
The Hornets can only hope the deal will sit well with fans and area businesses, who bought more than 10,000 season tickets despite the lockout in an effort to show the NBA their community could make the franchise viable for whatever ownership group eventually buys the club from the league.
Stern said he does not expect to preside over any more major Hornets player transactions, and that expects “spirited bidding” for the team to result in a new owner in the first half of 2012, once a lease is finalized.
“We’re looking solely for ownership that wants to keep the team in New Orleans,” Stern said.
Paul, whom the Hornets drafted fourth overall in 2005, told New Orleans earlier this month that he was not going to sign an extension, and Demps had been trying to trade him since.
Demps came close to making a three-team deal last Thursday that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. The Lakers would have sent Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to Houston, while the Rockets would have sent Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans.
Stern, however, told Demps to take that deal off the table because he thought the Hornets could get a better deal, both in terms of personnel and salary obligations, in exchange for their marquee player.
Paul showed up for Hornets training camp last Friday but has not spoken to reporters since. He was excused from a mandatory media event on Wednesday in which players pose for photos in uniform and talk about the upcoming season.
The urgency to make a deal appeared to be growing, even though Demps insisted earlier Wednesday that the Hornets had no timeline and would not be rushed into a “rash decision.”
Still, Demps acknowledged that it was hard for the Hornets to pursue free agents and further build their roster while Paul’s status was in limbo. If trade talks had dragged on much longer, the Hornets could have gone into Friday night’s preseason opener at Memphis with little idea of what their roster would look like in their first regular season game at Phoenix on Dec. 26.
Other than Paul, the Hornets had only five returning veterans under contract: center Emeka Okafor, forward Trevor Ariza, point guard Jarrett Jack, second-year swingman Quincy Pondexter and shooting guard Marco Belinelli.
The addition of Gordon, Aminu and Kaman give New Orleans desperately needed depth while opening the way for the franchise to further strengthen its roster through free agency.
Meanwhile, the Hornets also could look forward to an additional first-round draft choice next summer. The pick originally belonged to Minnesota, meaning it will be tied to where the Timberwolves finish in the standings this season.