The framework of a three-team trade is in place to send Hornets All-Star guard Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, according to multiple reports. However there were indications the deal might be falling through.
Under the trade being reported by the Houston Chronicle and The (New Orleans) Times Picayune:
•The Lakers will receive Paul.
•The Houston Rockets will get forward Pau Gasol from the Lakers.
•The New Orleans Hornets will acquire forward Lamar Odom from the Lakers and guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic and forward Luis Scola and a draft pick from the Rockets.
"It’s a done deal," a person familiar with the trade who was not authorized to talk publicly told the Los Angeles Times.
However, multiple reports surfaced later Thursday that the deal might have hit a snag. Owners reportedly weren’t pleased with the deal the NBA-owned Hornets agreed to, providing a stumbling block that could nix the deal.
According to the LA Times, the Lakers might get one other player to play power forward. The identity of the player was unknown, but veteran New Orleans center-forward Emeka Okafor is an option.
Paul can opt out of his current contract with New Orleans after this season, and the Hornets have been fielding trade offers in an effort to acquire new players for the star guard rather than letting him walk in free agency.
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 all but force a trade.
”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.
While he never said publicly that he wanted to play in a larger market, he did say before last season that he wants to play for a team that has a chance to contend for a title right away – something he should get when he joins Kobe Bryant and the Lakers.
The Hornets have been owned by the NBA since last December, when the league bought the club from founder George Shinn.
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.
The Hornets have increased their season ticket base from a little more than 6,000 last season to just over 10,019 as of Thursday afternoon.
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. However, that apparently is not the case.
If this deal is approved one of the NBA’s biggest stars from the league-owned small-market Hornets will be moving to one of the NBA’s largest, richest markets.
Paul was drafted by the Hornets fourth overall out of Wake Forest in 2005.
He has been selected to the Western Conference All-Star squad the past four seasons and also was a member of the United States’ Olympic gold medal-winning team in Beijing in 2008.