Chris Paul to the Lakers, the aborted trade that would have turned the NBA upside down
Imagine the best possible backcourt in the early 2010s. Kobe Bryant on post two, no doubt. He was then the most dominant basketball player on the planet with LeBron James. Champion and MVP of the finals in 2009 and 2010. Aging, yes, but terribly strong.
And at the end, there too, little hesitation. Chris Paul. The “Point God”. The reference in the matter. Well this duo should have done wonders for the Los Angeles Lakers. The fantasy had come true. And for a few hours, supporters of the Hollywood franchise began to dream.
Until david stern kicks in. December 2011. The NBA is just emerging from a months-long lockout and a new CBA has just been drafted and ratified. A relief. A deal supposed to allow small markets not to be stifled by the behemoths of the championship. The teams are slowly preparing for the resumption, scheduled for January. Then news hit like a bomb: the New Orleans Hornets have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers in a three-organization transfer.
Two of the best players on the planet are now united under the same tunic. The Miami Heat’s ideal penchant for LeBron James, chris bosh and Dwyane Wade. Californian fans exult, the others cringe. And not just enthusiasts. But also leaders of other clubs.
The Angelenos give in anyway Paul Gasol — perhaps their most effective player — to the Houston Rockets in the deal. Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic and a 2012 draft pick are shipped to New Orleans. An interesting counterpart for CP3, anyway at the end of the contract the following year. But there is a catch.
Yes Dell Dempsthe GM of the Hornets, concocted the trade, the Louisiana franchise has been temporarily in the grip of the NBA since George Shinn, the former owner, sold the organization to the league for 300 million dollars in 2010. While waiting for a new buyer and therefore a new owner, it is david stern, the commissionaire, who is at the helm with the team President. Delicate.
The boss then decides to break the transfer. Assure him that it is only for sporting reasons. But it is then rumored behind the scenes that several franchise managers are unhappy to see a second invincible armada forming in the West of the country. They fear being left behind. Especially just after the signing of a CBA which was to ensure the balance of the championship.
» This trade is a joke “, even noted Dan Gilbert, owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, in an email. » And I know that many franchise owners think like me. »
David Stern had a double cap. Was he really able to focus only on that of leader of the Hornets at the time? This obviously seems unlikely. He defended himself by assuring that this trade – accepted by the GM of NO nevertheless – did not make sense and that it was preferable to keep Chris Paul. Against his will ? The point guard wanted to leave anyway and he had warned his employers that he would not stay once his contract expired in 2012.
Aborted trade from Chris Paul to the Lakers: David Stern accuses Mitch Kupchak
Lakers, Rockets and even the Hornets pushed for the trade to go through anyway. The proof that, sportingly, it really interested all the parties involved. But in vain. It was finally a few days later that Paul was sent to the Los Angeles… Clippers. And there again, the case almost collapsed. The Clips notably fell because the Hornets were asking for too many assets. Then they finally agreed 48 hours later.
Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and the first round (2012, unprotected) Timberwolves served as bargaining chips. The beginning of a new era, that of “Lob City”. The end of an era for the Lakers, who then bet on Dwight Howard and Steve Nash… with the failure that we know.
This transfer to the Purple and Gold could have changed the league. CP3 was especially upset after it was canceled. Because he was already boiling over the idea of playing with Kobe Bryant. Besides, the two men had already called each other and they had started discussing how they would shine together. With Andrew Bynum at their side, he had a dominant pivot (All-Star at the time!) to form an elite trio.
Afterwards, there is a form of fantasy about the real possibilities of this hypothetical team. One, Kobe was coming somewhere near the end even though he was still monstrous before his Achilles tendon injury. But the physical glitches were already accumulating, the fatigue too and he was defending much less. Bynum was a very promising youngster but we saw later that his lack of desire took over. In the end, not sure that this « Big Three » would have made sparks in the long term.
The shooting window would have been quite short. Because a potential dynasty was developing in the West with Kevin Durant, James Harden and Russell Westbrook still together in Oklahoma City. The Thunder beat the Bryant and Gasol Lakers 4-1 in the 2012 Conference Semifinals. What would have been the outcome of the series with Chris Paul? And even if the Angelenos had passed, the Heat trio, with James, Wade and Bosh, still seemed stronger. On the other hand, one can wonder if the association of Kobe and Paul could not have helped the leaders to bring in a third star then.
The aborted transfer of Chris Paul to the Lakers at the origin of the fall of Lamar Odom?
What is certain is that the aborted transfer plunged Lamar Odom into the abyss. The luxury sixth man felt good at the Lakers. He found himself disoriented, unwanted…” They don’t want me anymore he said right after the league broke the deal. He was eventually sent to the Dallas Mavericks and got into drugs. Before passing close to death by overdosing a few years later.
Title or not, an arrival of Chris Paul at the Lakers would have turned the NBA landscape upside down at the time. And so probably today. A trade that could have upset the whole decade.