HANG TIME NEW JERSEY BUREAU — Thursday, Dec. 8 was one of the wildest days the NBA has seen in recent memory, as three teams pulled off a trade that would have altered the NBA landscape, only to have the deal squashed by commissioner David Stern. And now, we have to wonder what kind of precedent has been set, and what this means for the future of the players and teams involved.
This was supposed to be the day that the new collective bargaining agreement was ratified. And it was. But that news was completely overshadowed by what happened shortly after the league’s press conference.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
After several days of talks with several teams, the New Orleans Hornets finally reached a deal to get back some assets for Chris Paul, who they clearly believed was going to leave via free agency next summer. They traded Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers in a three-way deal that netted them Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Lamar Odom, Luis Scola and the Knicks’ 2012 first-round draft pick (via Houston).
Twitter blew up, the league was abuzz, and columns were being filed about the plusses and minuses of the deal. Many were already preparing for the Lakers’ next move. Since they were keeping Andrew Bynum, they were still able to dangle him in front of the Orlando Magic in an effort to team Dwight Howard with Paul and Kobe Bryant.
The first tweet of the deal, from Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, came shortly before 6 p.m. ET. Less than three hours later, Wojnarowski reported that “NBA owners have pushed commissioner David Stern to kill the deal.”
Within minutes, other reporters confirmed that the deal was dead. Paul was still a member of the New Orleans Hornets and the Lakers’ dominant frontline remained intact. Training camps were set to open in less than 24 hours and we were all to pretend that nothing happened.
Later, NBA senior vice president of basketball communications Tim Frank issued this statement: “Not true that the owners killed the deal. It wasn’t even discussed at the board meeting. League office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons.”
Either way, the situation only leads to more questions, especially since the Hornets were getting back a pretty good haul in the deal.
First, if the league didn’t want the Hornets to trade Paul, why did they allow general manager Dell Demps to waste so much of his time (and the time of other executives around the league) negotiating a deal?
Second, if Demps wasn’t allowed to make this deal, is there any deal (involving Paul) that he’s allowed to make? And if Demps can’t trade Paul, aren’t the Hornets just going to lose him for nothing next summer?
Third, is this just about keeping Paul to help the team get sold? And will it get sold in time for the Hornets to make a deal that will get them something in return for Paul?
In his recap of the night, Wojnarowski reported that Demps considered resigning. And obviously, we haven’t heard the last of this story. ESPN has reported that Paul won’t be showing up at Hornets training camp on Friday.
The craziness of the day wasn’t limited to the three-team trade. The first wild moment came when we learned that the New York Knicks had put themselves in the mix for Tyson Chandler, shortly after we heard that the Golden State Warriors had offered him $60 million over four years.
The Knicks, with their payroll right at the salary cap line, seemingly had no way to get Chandler. But then CBS Sports’ Ken Berger reported that they were “in the lead” for the center dropping this bombshell: “If the deal goes through, the Knicks use amnesty on Chauncey Billups and move Ronny Turiaf to make room for Chandler, sources say.”
Chandler will obviously help the Knicks defensively, but by waiving Billups, they’re left without a point guard. And by signing Chandler to a long-term deal, they’re seemingly out of the running to sign Paul next summer. They should, however, get plenty of interest from point guards willing to sign for the mid-level exception.
No deal can become official until Friday at 2 p.m., but according to multiple reports, Billups is “irate” about the news and has already gone home to Denver.
The developments of Thursday crept into early Friday morning when ESPN’s Chris Broussard reported that Howard “is preparing to ask the Magic to trade him to the Nets.”
The Magic could get Brook Lopez, another player (possibly Jordan Farmar) and picks back from New Jersey. That may not seem like a lot, but the Nets, after waiving Travis Outlaw and renouncing their bird rights to Kris Humphries, would be able to absorb Hedo Turkoglu’s contract in the deal. And that would allow the Magic to wipe $21 million off the Orlando payroll. If they then waived Gilbert Arenas using the amnesty clause, they could start fresh.
Here’s what else went down on an eventful Thursday, according to reports…
- Shane Battier decided to sign with the Miami Heat, who will also sign Eddy Curry to a deal.
- Caron Butler reached an agreement with the Los Angeles Clippers for $24 million over three years.
- Tayshaun Prince and Jonas Jerebko each reached agreements to return to the Detroit Pistons on four-year deals.
- Tracy McGrady and Jason Collins each reached agreements on one-year deals with the Atlanta Hawks.
- Shannon Brown is leaving L.A. for Phoenix.
- The Milwaukee Bucks reached an agreement with Mike Dunleavy on a two-year deal worth $7.5 million.
- The Boston Celtics will acquire Keyon Dooling from the Bucks for a second-round pick.
- Jeff Pendergraph reached a deal with the Indiana Pacers.
- Finally, the Toronto Raptors are close to being sold.
All this and the league still isn’t technically back in business yet. So get ready for another wild ride on Friday.
John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.