Back in 2011, the Lakers were looking to retool around the late Kobe Bryant and agreed upon a three-team trade which would have sent out Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Chris Paul. Then NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade at the time and did not offer much of an explanation outside of the infamous ‘basketball reasons.’
This changed the course of the next decade in the NBA, as Chris Paul was then traded to the Clippers several days later, and we never saw Paul paired with Bryant in the Purple and Gold.
Recently on Gilbert Arena’s No Chill podcast with guest Chris Paul, Arenas explains the reasons as to why the trade to the Lakers fell through.
"So when it got nixed, I'm like "Damn what happened?". He [Dan Fagan] said it was unfair. He said, 'What was in the background of all that was Dwight Howard being traded for Bynum.'
Remember, I'm in Orlando. I'm already talking to Otis [Orlando GM] and it was like, 'Dwight don't want to stay'. This was when the amnesty was coming. So Orlando, they're trying to figure out if they were going to throw me in the deal and force [the] Lakers: if you want Dwight you're gonna have to take Gilbert's contract too.
I was probably gonna get amnesty...basically, after all y'all superteam got together, y'all had too much money left. That was the reason it got nixed. So Dan Fagan hit Mark Cuban and did the numbers. It would have destroyed the league for at least 10 years.
So if you went, Dwight went, you guys had 24-30 million dollars left in cap space. So at that time you're talking about starting price about 12-13 million on a max contract. So you got 3 max players, and you can get 2 more max players."
This does make sense had Arenas been traded with Howard to the Lakers, and then gotten amnestied. Remember, during the prior CBA agreement, each team was allowed one amnesty, where you could waive a player’s contract without it counting against the teams’ salary cap.
If the Lakers were able to get Howard, Paul, and Bryant in their primes together—along with over $20 million in cap space—we may be talking about the Lakers with 20 plus championships instead of the 17 they are at right now.
Arenas was with Howard at this time, and there were rumblings that Howard wanted out at that time. A year later, Howard was traded to the Lakers in a multi-team deal that paired him with Steve Nash and Bryant. Nobody knew at the time, but we would soon realize how many steps back the Lakers took after that initial trade was nixed, as after that season, the Lakers did not win a playoff game until the 2020 bubble season.