The NBA-owned New Orleans Hornets have reached an agreement to send point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers.
While the Clippers will receive the four-time All-Star point guard to pair with franchise centerpiece Blake Griffin, the Hornets will receive an All-Star caliber guard Eric Gordon, veteran center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Faruoq Aminu and the 2012 first round pick from Minnesota that was atop their wish list of assets in these talks all along. The Clippers will also receive two future second-round picks in the deal.
After the NBA vetoed a three-team deal involving the Lakers and Rockets on Dec. 8 -- and the Lakers backed out of a revised version of the deal two days later -- the Paul trade show continued anew on Monday night. The Hornets and Clippers re-engaged in discussions, with Commissioner David Stern and league associates Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin continuing their relentless push to attain the sort of assets that they saw fit for a rebuilding team.
"I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job," Stern said. "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."
In the process, the most unique of dynamics was the latest black eye for a league looking to re-engage its fans after a contentious lockout had threatened the season. Hornets general manager Dell Demps, who had worked diligently to set the table for a possible Paul deal since coming aboard last season, was circumvented in the final stages of this process while the league officials took control. And while the end certainly doesn't justify the means, there's no mistaking that the Hornets landed quite a haul.
"Our sole focus was and will remain, until we sell this team, hopefully which will be in first half of 2012, how best to maintain the Hornets, make them as attractive and a competitive as we can and ensure we have a buyer who can keep them in New Orleans," Stern said.
In Gordon, New Orleans acquires a fourth-year player who averaged 22.3 points in 56 games last season. The Hornets will have a team option on Gordon for next season and can begin discussing a contract extension immediately. In Kaman, they acquire a top-tier big man with a $12.7 million expiring contract that could come in handy leading up to the league's February trade deadline. Aminu, a 6-foot-9 small forward out of Wake Forest who was a rotation player in Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro's system, has potential as well. Above all else, though, the Hornets landed the draft pick they've coveted all along.
"For the long-term future of the New Orleans Hornets, this is the best deal," Demps said in a statement.
Of all the assets in play in the trade talks for Paul, the Wolves' pick was atop the Hornets' wish list alongside Golden State guard Stephen Curry. Next year's draft is being billed as one of the deepest in years, with Kentucky forward Anthony Davis, Connecticut center Andre Drummond and North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes among the many players who could do wonders for the Hornets' rebuilding effort. And while the Timberwolves are expected to improve under new coach Rick Adelman, the Hornets will be rooting all season long for a terrible showing that would lead to a high pick.
Sources had said in recent weeks that Paul was open to joining the Clippers long-term, and a source confirmed that he will likely pick up his player option worth $17.8 million for the 2012-13 season as a sign of his commitment. Changes to the rules in the new collective bargaining agreement mean that players are paid less by immediately extending their contract, so the Clippers and Paul will likely sign a new, more lucrative deal in the summer.
ESPN.com first reported news of the trade being agreed upon.