Five years ago on this day, the Los Angeles Lakers seemingly made another blockbuster deal. A three-team trade between the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, and Houston Rockets was agreed to that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers. Everything looked set until then-NBA Commissioner David Stern vetoed the trade for ‘basketball reasons.’
The NBA had bought the Hornets from former owner George Shinn, but it was believed that New Orleans general manager Dell Demps was in control of all personnel moves. That didn’t stop Stern from canceling the trade, however, and altering the landscape of the NBA as we know it.
Stern, himself sees things differently.
In an interview with Brian Berger for Sports Business Radio (transcribed by Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated), Stern said that there was no trade to cancel because there was never an agreement:
“I’m going to correct your language: What ‘cancellation’? The GM [Dell Demps] was not authorized to make that trade,” said Stern. “And acting on behalf of owners, we decided not to make it. I was an owner rep. There was nothing to ‘void.’ It just never got made.”
Stern would also imply that his silence on the subject has led to both the Lakers and Rockets (and fans) having the wrong idea about what went down:
“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.”
In other words, Stern is saying that he more or less rejected the trade offer from the Lakers and Rockets and that Demps as general manager didn’t have the authority to agree to a deal. Everything had to go through Stern.
Some would question that since Stern made comments at that time that seemed to suggest that the NBA would allow Demps to handle all personnel matter. Regardless, nothing will change what happened five years ago.
The Lakers would move on, adding Steve Nash and Dwight Howard the following summer, but things went downhill from there as the Lakers haven’t made the playoffs since 2012. The franchise is finally back on the right path, but there will forever be questions about what could have been, had Chris Paul joined the Lakers.