Lakers, Hornets, Rockets resubmit Paul trade for league approval
The Lakers, Hornets and Rockets continue to revise their three-way trade proposal that would send Chris Paul to L.A., sources have told SI.com.
While sources said a revised version of the deal that was killed by NBA commissioner and de facto Hornets owner David Stern on Thursday was submitted to the league office early Saturday, the situation remained fluid hours later when possible changes were still being discussed. A possible sign-and-trade sending free agent center Jason Smith from the Hornets to the Lakers is among those potential changes, though one source said that component had not been agreed upon as of 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. According to Yahoo! Sports, a sign-and-trade sending free agent guard Marcus Banks from the Hornets to the Lakers was also being considered.
Sources told SI.com earlier Saturday that the possible deal was "mostly the same" as before, when Lakers forward Lamar Odom, Rockets guard Kevin Martin, forward Luis Scola, guard Goran Dragic and a first-round draft pick from Houston were headed to the Hornets. Lakers forward Pau Gasol was set to join the Rockets and L.A. would receive Paul.
Hornets general manager Dell Demps, according to sources, had been told by the league to focus on acquiring either younger players (Martin is 29, Scola is 31, and Odom is 32) or more draft picks in order to help the Hornets build for the future. A source said the Lakers might have given up a first-round draft pick in the deal as well, but the details were not immediately available.
According to a source, Martin was told not to come to Rockets practice on Saturday. The Houston Chronicle reported that Scola was not practicing as well, while Dragic was already out with a sprained ankle.
ESPN.com first reported the trade proposal had been re-submitted to the league office.
Representatives from the three teams have communicated since the NBA vetoed the proposal Thursday night and understand the need to sweeten the deal for New Orleans, either through additional players or future draft considerations.
Stern released a statement on Friday explaining why the league vetoed the trade:
"Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner's Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling," Stern said. "All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade."
While Stern insisted that the deal's death wasn't a result of pressure applied by rival owners, Yahoo! Sports and the New York Times obtained a letter from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that seemed to imply otherwise. Gilbert called the deal a "travesty" and argued that the Lakers' economic benefits in the deal -- in addition to acquiring Paul -- were far too great for the league to approve.
"Over the next three seasons, this deal would save the Lakers approximately $20 million in salaries and approximately $21 million in luxury taxes," Gilbert wrote. "That $21 million goes to non-taxpaying teams and to fund revenue sharing."
As a result, the Lakers may have been asked to take back more salary in the deal. Hornets center Emeka Okafor would appear to be a candidate, as he is owed a combined $40.4 million for the next three years.
In the absence of a three-team deal with Houston and the Lakers, New Orleans needed to reassess the league-wide market for Paul as well. Sources said that process began Thursday night, when Hornets general manager Dell Demps -- who reportedly considered quitting as a result of this fiasco -- picked up the phone again in attempt to find a deal that might be to the NBA's liking.
"Since that deal did not go through, we're going to keep plugging away and see if we can get a deal for the team," Demps told reporters on Friday. "We're talking about everything. Everything is on the table."
Part of the problem the teams have run into is dealing with New Orleans. The Hornets have just five players under contract for 2011-12 and some of the pieces that could be involved in a deal are not yet signed.
While the Lakers are eager to add Paul, the Rockets have been aggressively trying to close the deal. Acquiring Gasol would not only give them an offensive force on the post, but trading Scola and Martin would free up the cap space for Houston to offer free-agent center Nene a four-year deal between $14 million and $16 million per season. On Friday, Yahoo! Sports reported that the Nets were preparing to offer Nene a four-year deal worth $60 million to $65 million.
Demps said he was given autonomy by the league to make another trade for Paul, who showed up to the Hornets' first day of training camp Friday just hours after the first proposal was nixed.
"We offered Chris a contract extension and Chris said that he's not ready to sign an extension at this time," Demps said. "We always knew that there was a possibility that this day would happen. ... It would be real easy if Chris signed the extension but the reality is he didn't sign the extension, so we have to do everything we can for the organization. I wish he'd stay. I'm not going to lie about it."
Meanwhile, Paul's situation was still holding up other business around the league. A source said that Golden State, which had been among the teams pushing hard for Paul in recent weeks, was delaying its expected pursuit of Clippers restricted free agent DeAndre Jordan until it was clear Paul was off the market. The Warriors are expected to make an offer to Jordan that starts at approximately $10 million annually, though the Clippers -- who reportedly offered Jordan a five-year deal worth $40 million -- have the right to match.