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Clippers acquire Paul in blockbuster deal

By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers pulled off the biggest trade in franchise history, acquiring New Orleans Hornets four-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul in a blockbuster deal that took many twists and turns before coming to fruition Wednesday.

The Clippers sent guard Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and his expiring $12.7 million contract to the Hornets, along with second-year forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the 2012 unprotected first-round draft pick the Clippers acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005.

The Clippers will get two 2015 second-round draft picks from the Hornets.

After a Los Angeles Lakers deal for Paul was killed twice by the NBA last week, much had been made about the Clippers’ unwillingness to put Gordon in the deal, about the NBA hijacking the process from New Orleans General Manager Dell Demps and about the league’s high asking price.

The Clippers balked at a deal last week and pulled out of negotiations again Monday morning after another round of talks with the NBA Sunday night.

The NBA initiated talks again with the Clippers Tuesday afternoon, and those seemed to go nowhere as well.
Each time, the reports were that the NBA wanted Gordon and the No. 1 pick — which is expected to be very high — and that the Clippers viewed that as too much.

In the end, the Clippers sent both to the Hornets.

But the Clippers didn’t trade second-year point guard Eric Bledsoe, whose name also had been mentioned in the talks.

The Clippers said they will have a news conference Thursday with Paul, coach Vinny Del Negro and Neil Olshey, the team’s vice president of basketball operations, at the team’s training facility.

The deal already has sent reverberations throughout the NBA.

“I think that the Clippers are finally relevant,” former Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr, an NBA analyst for TNT, said in a telephone interview on NBA TV Wednesday night. “Man, it looks like the Clippers are actually poised to kind of take over that town. (Paul) is the guy that’s going to take them to the next step.”

Paul, 26, due to earn $16.3 million this season, informed the Clippers that he will pick up his option for the 2012-13 season at $17.7 million.

That means he’ll play alongside Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin for at least two seasons. The hope inside the Clippers’ office is that Paul will want to sign a long-term extension with the team.

“The Clippers are going to be nice,” Shaquille O’Neal, the former Laker who now works as a studio analyst for TNT, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“They’ve got Chris Paul, Caron (Butler), my man Blake Griffin. They’ve got the potential to do some damage in the playoffs, especially with the shortened 66-game season. I can’t wait to watch them play.”

The addition of Paul gives the Clippers a crowded backcourt of point guards.

They have Mo Williams, whom they acquired last season for Baron Davis.

They have Chauncey Billups, whom they acquired by winning a waiver auction bid Sunday night after the New York Knicks used the new amnesty provision on him.

And they have Bledsoe, who will be out until late January recovering from right knee surgery.

Randy Foye is more of a combo point and shooting guard.

Del Negro will have to decide who starts at shooting guard besides Paul.

With Kaman gone, the Clippers will be in need of a backup center, something they probably will get via trade or free agency.

“How about the turn of events in L.A. the last 10 days or so,” Kerr said, “the Lakers thinking they’re getting (Paul) and all of a sudden the Clippers get him and the Lakers in the meantime trade (Lamar) Odom as a result of his being unhappy and get nothing back.”

In the proposed Lakers trade for Paul, Odom would have gone to the Hornets and Pau Gasol would have gone to the Houston Rockets, who would have sent three players and a first-round draft pick to New Orleans.

The NBA rejected it and the Lakers traded Odom on Sunday to the Dallas Mavericks for a 2012 first-round draft pick.
Commissioner David Stern took the blame for the Lakers-Paul deal not happening and for the Clippers and Hornets having to deal with his office during negotiations. The Hornets are owned by the league.

But Demps said the commissioner’s office was “unfairly portrayed” as being heavy-handed in the process.

“This transaction here gives the team a long-term foundation,” Demps said in a conference call with Stern. “We get exciting young players in a program that will be developed and we have the opportunity to add more and I think for the long-term future of the New Orleans Hornets this was the best move.”

©2011 the Los Angeles Times

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