With the Lakers officially pulling out of the Chris Paul derby earlier tonight, New Orleans has lost it's preferred and most aggressive dance partner. It doesn't take a genius to guess that perhaps the Los Angeles Clippers or the Golden State Warriors might emerge as the next available option, and indeed Marc Stein of ESPN tweeted late Saturday night that the Clippers were now the front runners.
There's just one problem: if the league office thought the Hornets weren't getting enough in the three-way deal they had with the Lakers and Rockets, there's no way they're going to sign off on what the Clippers are going to offer - unless Neil Olshey loses his mind.
We've been through this already here of course: the Clippers were the front runners back at the beginning of this week. They weren't willing to offer New Orleans what they wanted then (i.e. Eric Gordon), and nothing has really happened that would cause the Clippers to change their minds now about the inclusion of more assets.
There's a big reason the Lakers were willing to include so much in their trade offer - presumably Paul was willing to either sign an extension with them, or indicated that he would re-sign as a free agent next year. There's no indication that he would make the same accommodations for the Clippers, which means that he's less valuable, which means the Clippers won't offer as much.
In the meantime, the reason David Stern gave for vetoing the deal(s) for Paul was that the Hornets weren't getting enough value in return. So do the math. Lakers offer > Clipper offer. Lakers offer < Stern's desire. QED no Clippers deal.
There are some possible scenarios I can imagine that might change the equation:
- Maybe David Stern was lying when he said it was for "basketball reasons" that the trade was vetoed. I know, absurd, right? But hear me out. Maybe he just was doing the bidding of the small market teams in vetoing a trade to the Lakers. Of course, the Clippers are in the same town, but the Clippers are not the Lakers. If we're just talking about big revenue and/or competitive balance, one presumes that Paul to the Clippers is more amenable to Dan Gilbert and his ilk.
- The Hornets are more desperate to move Paul now than they were before. This doesn't make much sense. Sure, one bidder is now out of the game. But if they rejected a good offer on Thursday, it's hard to imagine they'd get so spooked as to accept a lesser offer on Sunday. But maybe. More likely the real panic won't set in until the trade deadline approaches and they still have Paul on their roster. Then again, I'm sure coach Monty Williams would love to have a team to train during his training camp.
- Maybe Stern is just adamant about getting younger. Maybe the commissioner of the NBA/owner of the Hornets recognizes the fact that the Hornets need to start over without Paul, and that a package of Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin and Luis Scola, as talented as those players are, was wrong for the Hornets at this time. There's something to be said for that - Odom, Martin and Scola are all older than Paul after all, with Odom and Scola both over 30. The Clippers won't (shouldn't?) beat the vetoed offer for established talent - but they can certainly help the Hornets get younger. Of course, at the beginning of the week we all thought that Eric Bledsoe was healty - that young trade chip lost some value when his October knee surgery was announced yesterday. But if it's all about hope for the future and rebuilding, an unprotected first rounder that is likely to be in the top 5 of a strong draft is a very good thing.
- [Note by Steve Perrin, 12/11/11 12:19 AM PST ] In the comments on the earlier FanShot, citizen SilverClip made a great point: having done a sign and trade for Tyson Chandler, the Knicks are now for all intents and purposes not a realistic destination for Paul next summer. From all indications, the only two teams that Paul wants to play for are the Knicks and the Lakers - at this point, neither can trade for him, and neither is a viable destination in free agency in 2012. Which means it's Paul who suddenly has less leverage. We have no idea whether the Clippers might qualify as a third choice or even a top 10 choice for CP3, but the fact that both the Knicks and the Lakers are out of the game for the foreseeable future makes a huge difference. Maybe he's signs that extension after all. [End note]
That's all I can think of that could change the situation - and none of those things seem like enough to make a Clippers offer acceptable to Stern. At least not what the Clippers are going to be willing to offer in order to rent Chris Paul for a shortened season. As we've said all along, if Paul agrees to stay a bit longer, it changes things.