The LeBron James era at Staples Center has ended arguably the worst decade in Los Angeles Lakers history. But the franchise memorably had a massive chance to come out of the slump earlier when it agreed to trade for then-New Orleans Hornets superstar Chris Paul, entering the prime of his career.
The NBA was coming out of the 2011 lockout in early December when the news broke about a three-way deal between the Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans. L.A. agreed to break up the All-Star duo Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol as well as part ways with the team’s sixth man Lamar Odom, sending them to the Hornets.
In return, Paul was headed to Staples Center until NBA commissioner David Stern blocked the deal. The league owned the New Orleans franchise at the time.
Former Lakers guard Matt Barnes, who played for the Purple and Gold in the early 2010s, asked Lakers governor Jeanie Buss about the infamous trade on Showtime’s “All The Smoke” show. And Buss, who acted as L.A.’s vice president of business operations in 2011, revealed the transaction failed to materialize due to the miscommunication between Stern and then-New Orleans general manager Dell Demps:
“So if you remember we were in a lockout, right? When there’s a lockout, there’s a moratorium on everything: you can’t make trades, you can’t do anything. As we were making a deal with the union and then starting to lift the lockout rules, all the representatives of the teams had to be in New York for Board of Governors meeting to ratify the new CBA. And so as we’re in this room, all of a sudden, there’s kind of this rumor that goes in around the room about a trade. Well, at that time, the team was run by the league, right? So there’s no way a trade can be happening if we’re all in this room doing league business. Except the [New Orleans] general manager of the team felt that he had the authority to make a trade. … So the trade was happening while everybody is in this room, so teams felt like ‘How is that possible? We didn’t get a chance to make a trade for Chris Paul?’ And so they all attacked the league and said this wasn’t fair.”
Buss added Stern rejected the trade as the Hornets’ governor, not the NBA’s commissioner, trying to make sure the franchise agreed to a deal he would have approved. The decision was also supposed to cool off the heated situation between the league, the Lakers, and other disgruntled teams.
But in the meantime, L.A. traded Odom to the Dallas Mavericks, breaking up pieces of the canceled Paul trade and surrendering in the race for the Hornets guard. The L.A. Clippers then famously sneaked in and snapped up Paul, sending Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, Eric Gordon and a 2012 first-round pick to New Orleans.
James believes Lakers’ championship pedigree will give them advantage in NBA Playoffs
James finished the process of restoring the Lakers franchise last year when he led the organization to its 17th NBA title. L.A. is hoping to defend the championship, but the mid-season injury wave made the challenge particularly difficult, sidelining James and Anthony Davis for several weeks.
The two All-Stars just recently rejoined the team, having very little time to rebuild chemistry with their teammates before the start of the postseason. But James believes last year’s experience will come to the Lakers’ rescue in the playoffs.
“Whether it results in wins, that’s for us. The game is played between the four lines, not on experience or on paper and things of that nature. We got to go out and do it, too. You can always go back and use some of those for sometimes when you feel like can I do this or can I not.”
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