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The Los Angeles Clippers, in a potentially franchise-changing trade, have finally reached a deal with the New Orleans Hornets to acquire four-time All-Star guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, sources tell TNT’s David Aldridge. The Clippers will send promising shooting guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, second-year forward Al-Faroqu Aminu and a 2012 first-round draft pick from the Minnesota Timberwolves that is currently unprotected to the Hornets.
A deal for Paul between the Hornets and the Clippers’ crosstown rival, the Lakers, was scotched last week by NBA Commissioner David Stern, acting on behalf of the league-owned Hornets.
The deal makes the Clippers a potential powerhouse in the Western Conference after almost three decades of being the NBA’s most laughably bad franchise, and shows the pull that third-year star forward Blake Griffin‘s presence has in luring marquee names to play there. With Griffin, Paul and newly signed small forward Caron Butler, the Clippers now have their own dynamic trio to compare with Miami’s “SuperFriends” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, and New York’s new Big Three of Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony and center Tyson Chandler, acquired last Saturday from Dallas in a sign-and-trade deal.
In the end, the Clippers abandoned their position that they wouldn’t include both Gordon and the unprotected first-round pick in the deal. The Hornets wanted five assets from the Clippers; the only one Los Angeles retained was second-year guard Eric Bledsoe.
But the Clippers still have dramatically changed the look and expectations of their roster, with the anticipation of the brilliant Paul throwing alley-oops to the high-flying Griffin already leading to the sale of around 1,000 season tickets in the last week, according to a league source. With Paul, Griffin, Butler and re-signed DeAndre Jordan taking over for Kaman at center, the Clippers could have one of the most athletic starting fives in the league.
Paul, according to sources, has committed to picking up his option year for the 2012-13 season, giving the Clippers at least two full years with Paul and Griffin together.
For New Orleans, it’s a reset for a franchise that has not been able to stabilize in recent years. Gordon, who averaged more than 22 points per game last season, is a top-notch two guard prospect. And the Draft pick may be especially valuable this year, as the 2012 Draft promises to be one of the deepest in recent years. With their own pick as well, the Hornets should get at least two young prospects to put on the court next season with Gordon and Aminu. The task now is to sell rebuilding as a promising concept for a fan base that committed to buy 10,000 season tickets before this season.
The NBA, which owns the Hornets, was adamant that in order to trade Paul, the Hornets had to get back a number of young assets that would both allow them to rebuild quickly and to be more palatable for potential owners who would keep the team in New Orleans. Aminu is 21; Gordon does not turn 23 until Christmas Day, and Kaman is 29.
It’s likely that the Hornets will flip Kaman, a former All-Star who’s in the final year of his contract and who would be in demand by many teams looking for a quality big man, by next summer at the latest for additional assets.
Paul originally was destined to go to the Clippers’ glamorous fellow Angelenos, the Lakers, as part of a three-team trade between the Lakers, Hornets and Rockets last week, but after the teams had gotten close to agreement, the NBA stepped in and killed the trade. In that deal, the Lakers would have gotten Paul, the Rockets would have gotten forward Pau Gasol and New Orleans would have received forwards Lamar Odom and Luis Scola, guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick from Houston.
But Stern — after receiving withering criticism for getting involved — said the trade was rejected for “basketball reasons.” Several outlets reported that the league had been swayed by the concerns of small-market owners who didn’t want the Lakers to get another superstar player like Paul.