On Wednesday night, Chris Paul really, truly was traded — to the Los Angeles Clippers, not the Lakers — in a deal that meets the exacting specifications of persnickety Commissioner David Stern and sets up a doozy of a West Coast rivalry.
Paul was traded by the New Orleans Hornets for guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice (from Minnesota, so it’s likely to be a lottery pick). Stern, whose permission was required because the Hornets are owned by the league, signed off on this one.
“I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job,” said Stern, who nixed a Paul-to-the-Lakers deal last week. “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.”
Clipperfever, meanwhile, is in full flower — with voters in an ESPN poll rating Clippers tickets hotter than Lakers tickets (one of the signs of the apocalypse) and that seismic shift isn’t sitting too well with the Lakers. The Los Angeles Times reports that the Lakers were in a snit, er, voiced their displeasure over the swap, but Kobe Bryant was diplomatic. “It’s good so see them being that aggressive and wanting to make the next step,” he said. “They got Blake, who I think the world of ... and CP, who I like as well, so I think it’s good for L.A. to have two teams that are competitive.”
The late move by the Clippers has reignited a sometimes stale rivalry between the Lakers and Clippers, who have missed the playoffs 13 of the past 14 seasons. As AP explained:
A bold trade for New Orleans’ superstar point guard on Wednesday just might alter the entire sports world’s perception of the Clippers. After managing just six winning seasons in their first 41 years of existence, the bumbling Clippers suddenly look slick and scintillating after swinging arguably the biggest trade in franchise history, giving them two of the NBA’s elite players and a capable supporting cast.
“We decided for a player of Chris’ caliber that it was just time to make the move and push all our chips into the center of the table,” Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told the team’s website. “We’re really happy about it. Chris is the kind of player that makes everybody around him better. He’s a general. He wins. He’s a warrior, and he’s going to take this whole organization to the next level.”
Even the Clippers themselves had trouble believing what their front office had just done in the moments after the trade was announced. Most of the players — including the ones who were traded — were on a holiday bus ride with season-ticket holders when their phones blew up with the news.
Griffin’s reaction was captured by television cameras after he chest-bumped center DeAndre Jordan: “Lob city!”
It’s already a T-shirt in Los Angeles, and it should be a way of life when the playmaking Paul and the high-flying NBA Rookie of the Year get together.
While armchair analysts debate who won the trade and wonder whether the club can keep its newfound assets for the long term, it’s clear that suddenly the Clippers don’t seem to be the modern archetype for sports ineptitude.
Sure, Los Angeles has missed the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 seasons, going 32-50 last spring in the Clippers’ 18th non-winning season in the past 19 years. The former Buffalo Braves have won just one playoff series since 1976.
Owners, players and fans have been quick to give their opinions of the new CBA, which was cast in new light during the CP3 trade saga, during which the NBA block a proposed trade to the Lakers. Michael Jordan weighed in, as AP reported:
Michael Jordan didn’t exactly shed any tears when the proposed trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers was nixed.
The Bobcats owner likes the idea of competitive balance in the NBA.
And while Jordan never expressed his opinion to NBA Commissioner David Stern on the trade, he said Wednesday that such moves simply don’t help smaller market teams.
“As a small market (owner) I’m very supportive of being able to keep your star player,” Jordan said in an afternoon press conference prior to Paul being reportedly dealt to the Clippers. “That whole market is determined by that one individual. You want to make it very difficult for that guy to leave. Not that he can’t leave, but to understand the circumstances if he does leave.
“I can’t imagine if I’m in the Hornets scenario that I would want Chris Paul to leave. You want to keep your star.”
That said, Jordan would like to land a headline player — someone like Paul.
“I would definitely go after a guy like that,” Jordan said of the Hornets star guard. “Obviously we have the cap space next year to do so. I would do everything I can get to try to get a player like that.”
Jordan said he wants every team in the league to have a chance to win the NBA championship including the Bobcats, who haven’t won a playoff game since coming into the league in 2004.
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