Thursday marked the five year anniversary of a trade that would have undoubtedly changed the landscape the NBA. “Would have” are the key words, however, as the blockbuster trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers was cancelled by the NBA’s front office, led by then-commissioner David Stern.
Earlier this week, Stern explained what happened to a group of students from the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and Columbia University sports management program.
“When you're the commissioner and you have two teams that are ticked off at you, as in the Lakers and Houston, and the GMs without wanting to be attributed, spend their time trashing you, the wrong impression can be granted. It was one of the few times I decided to just go radio silent and let it play out, and I got killed. So, the answer is: There was never a trade. It was never approved by me as the owner rep.”
Remember that at that time, the New Orleans Hornets were a league-owned entity. Stern cited “basketball reasons” as the main hinderance of the proposed deal. If you remember, the initial trade would have sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets, and a group including Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round pick to the Hornets.
Considering the impact that would have had, it appears as though Stern’s decision to not deal Paul completely shifted the path of the entire Western Conference, most notably the Los Angeles Clippers, who have been able to make the playoffs every season since Paul was traded to them in exchange for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 first-round pick (Austin Rivers).
It’s very interesting to think about what would have been, as this decision played a major role in shaping today’s Western Conference.