In a story by Sports Illustrated's Chris Ballard, former NBA commissioner David Stern discussed why he stopped the then-New Orleans Hornets from trading star player Chris Paul to the Lakers in 2011.
Stern explained how with the league just coming out of a lockout, he was not expecting to have to immediately approve a trade, especially not one involving a future Hall of Famer.
He added how as the owner rep for the then-Hornets, he was tasked with approving the trade general manager Dell Demps had put together, but he felt it wasn't a good enough return to give away Paul.
Stern also commented on how he thinks Demps has done a bad job as a general manager, and the feelings of NBA fans concerning the commissioner stopping teams from acquiring certain players has shifted over time.
How about Chris Paul, whose trade to the Lakers, Stern vetoed in 2011 during his time as de facto owner of the New Orleans franchise (then the Hornets, now the Pelicans)? “I didn’t do a great job of explaining it at the time. There was a trade that [New Orleans GM] Dell Demps wanted us to approve and I said heck no, but he had told [Rockets GM] Daryl Morey and [then Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak he had authority to do it and he didn’t. I said no. We just settled a lockout and you want me to approve a basketball trade?”
The reaction was swift but Stern held firm. “[Demps] had agreed to [trade Paul to the Lakers for] Kevin Martin and Luis Scola or something, and I said we can do better than that.... And the next trade was [to the Clippers for] Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu and what we thought was a really great draft pick, the 10th pick, which turned out to be Austin Rivers. At least those three and someone else [center Chris Kaman]. But Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis.”
Stern continues: “I did it because I was protecting the then Hornets.... To this day everyone always asks me, ‘Well why did you keep Chris Paul from going to the Lakers?’ I didn’t keep him. I didn’t approve the trade. No team sells or trades a future Hall of Famer without the owner signing off, and I was the owner’s rep. But I wasn’t going to hand up Dell Demps.” After this, Stern goes on for a bit before returning to what he sees as the irony. “Now when DeMarcus Cousins signs with Golden State, then the great unwashed Twitter says, ‘Adam Silver should be like Stern and stop him from going.’ Oh, O.K., guys, that’s great! Right? That’s ridiculous. Step up, strap on a set. It’s stupid.”
The explanation is classic Stern: an admission of error followed by a diminishment of that error and, ultimately, vindication.
The nixed deal that would have sent Paul to the Lakers also involved then-Lakers big man Pau Gasol heading to the Rockets. New Orleans would have received Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a 2012 first-round pick that Houston had acquired from the Knicks along with Lamar Odom from the Lakers.
On Dec. 15, 2011, Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick.
Stern was NBA commissioner for 30 years. He retired in 2014, allowing Adam Silver to take over the role.
You can read Ballard's full story on Stern here.