THE NBA, owners of the New Orleans Hornets, refused Thursday to approve a three-team trade that would have sent Hornets All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers.
“It’s not true that the owners killed the deal, the deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons,” league spokesman Mike Bass said.
Yahoo Sports reported that NBA Commissioner David Stern killed the trade after several owners complained. Citing anonymous sources, Yahoo reported Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was one of the most vocal owners upset about the deal, done the same day as the end of the lockout, which was supposed to restore competitive balance in the league.
Owners and players ratified a new collective bargaining agreement Thursday, the final step to ending the five-month lockout and paving the way for training camps and free agency to open Friday.
There was hope in small markets like New Orleans that after the lockout it would be easier for teams to hold on to their biggest stars. Had the deal had been approved, one of the NBA’s biggest stars from the league-owned small-market Hornets would have moved to one of the NBA’s largest, richest markets.
The Hornets have been owned by the NBA since last December, when the league bought the club from founder George Shinn.
A person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press that the framework for a deal had been in place earlier Thursday, but that Paul would report to Hornets training camp Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the talks were supposed to remain confidential.
The proposed deal would have sent Lamar Odom from the Lakers to New Orleans and Pau Gasol from the Lakers to Houston. The Rockets also had agreed to send forward Louis Scola, shooting guard Kevin Martin, point guard Goran Dragic and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans.
If the Hornets are unable to figure out a trade for Paul, he would be able to opt out of his current contract after the upcoming season.
Speaking earlier Thursday, Hornets president Hugh Weber said the franchise has been preparing for months for the possibility that Paul would resist signing an extension in New Orleans, a move that would leave the Hornets with the choice of trading him or simply letting him walk in free agency at the end of the season.
“We’ve been preparing for this moment for over a year, and it’s not like we were surprised or caught flat-footed,” Weber said. “This is not a surprise. This is not something where we’ve been sitting around waiting to see what would happen. We’ve been managing this and taking control of the situation as best we can and we’re going to have a team that we believe achieves that objective of making this community proud.”
Paul, 26, averaged 15.8 points and 9.8 assists last season.
Despite the lockout and uncertainty over Paul’s future, fan support has been building in New Orleans, where the team has advertised their season-ticket drive as an effort to lure a permanent local buyer who is committed to keeping the team in Louisiana.