It was 5 years ago today that David Stern, then the NBA commissioner, rejected a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, and the star point guard wound up being dealt to the Clippers instead.
The Hornets at the time were owned by the NBA, so Stern had the authority to scrap the deal, and rival owners still were steamed about the Lakers getting Pau Gasol from the Grizzlies in 2008. LA went on to win two straight titles, and the prospect of adding CP3 to that championship core seemed unfathomably unfair to everyone else.
Stern spoke about the dashed deal this week, disputing the idea that he voided the deal and insisting it just “never got made”. Very lawyerly, but we’ll skip the semantics and instead look at 5 takeaways from the 5 years since the non-trade.
NBAE/Getty ImagesDavid Dow
The Clippers have squandered their good fortune
Poaching Chris Paul from the Lakers was feasibly the move that would get LA’s other franchise over the hump, after the historically horrible Clippers had flirted with relevancy but reverted to hard luck. It cost them only Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 second-round pick. And it worked, with CP3 and the Clips making the playoffs every year and winning 50-plus games each of the past four seasons. But despite maintaining a core of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, plus coach Doc Rivers, the Clips have failed to get past the second round of the playoffs. And after Wednesday night’s whipping by the Warriors, FOX Sports’ Dieter Kurtenbach writes that the Clips are no threat to the defending Western Conference champions.
USA TODAY SportsGary A. Vasquez
The Lakers’ luck has been bad ever since
LA seemingly struck gold again in 2012, acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash. But Howard failed to fit in and fled after one season, Nash limped to the finish line with career-ending injuries, and Kobe Bryant was right behind him. The organization spun into chaos after the death of Jerry Buss in 2013. Three coaches and three of the worst seasons in franchise history have left the Lakers pinning their hopes to first-time head coach Luke Walton. The early results with their young players have been promising, but the team still has a long way to go to return to the ranks of the elite.
USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
Kobe retired earlier than he might have otherwise
Bryant retired after last season with five championships, and fans can only wonder how many he might have won with Chris Paul in the backcourt. Instead he made due with Steve Blake and Ramon Sessions, then a combination of Blake, Chris Duhon, Kendall Marshall and Jordan Farmar when Steve Nash was hurt – which was almost always. In Bryant’s final two seasons, it was Jeremy Lin, Ronnie Price, D’Angelo Russell and Marcelo Huertas, and Kobe chucking up his last shots before checking out of the Lakers’ laborious rebuild. Who knows what would have happened if he’d gotten CP3 while he still was a 27-ppg scorer back in 2011-13? Maybe the Lakers still get Dwight and actually can coexist … or maybe it all falls apart along with Bryant’s body.
Michael HickeyUSA TODAY Sports
League still trending in direction of super teams
Sorry Mr. Stern, but while you may have stopped a potential Lakers dynasty, you didn’t stop the rich from getting richer. The Heat went to three straight Finals behind their Big Three, winning two, while the Warriors have been to two straight and probably would have won both if not for Draymond Green. (Sorry, LeBron.) On top of that, Golden State signed Kevin Durant this summer, making everyone else sicker than they ever were back in 2011.
New Orleans wasn’t helped one bit
If they’d sent Paul to the Lakers, they’d have gotten Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and Kevin Martin. Instead they got Gordon, Kaman, Aminu, and the No. 10 overall pick in 2012, who turned out to be Austin Rivers. Basically a wash, though Dragic has been the best and most durable of that group.
In the four seasons before the trade, New Orleans averaged 47 wins. In the five seasons since, 31.4. Gordon, Aminu and Rivers played together for three seasons; none is still with the team.
New Orleans drafted Anthony Davis the summer after trading Paul. If only they could’ve paired those two…