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Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

Paul heading west after Clippers, Hornets agree to trade


NEW ORLEANS — Chris Paul is going to Los Angeles after all, but to join the Clippers, not the Lakers.

News photo
Done deal: The Los Angeles Clippers reached an agreement to acquire All-Star guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets on Wednesday in a multi-player transaction. AP PHOTO

The New Orleans Hornets traded Paul to the Clippers on Wednesday for guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice.

The deal required the approval of NBA commissioner David Stern because the Hornets are owned by the league.

It ended a tortured week in which the Hornets' season sat in limbo while the NBA took a beating over everything from potential conflicts of interest, to retarding the Hornets' pursuit of free agents, to disrespecting the New Orleans fan base.

"I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job," Stern said. "You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasn't a lot of fun, but I don't get paid to have fun."

Paul gets to play in one of the NBA's biggest markets, even if his new team plays in the shadow of the Lakers. That's the club Paul was almost traded to last week, only to have Stern nix the deal and unleash a torrent of bad publicity on his league just as it was trying to generate good will following a nearly five-month labor dispute that has already caused a shortening of the season.

Then again, maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity — or as Stern called it, "a frenzy." Even with the NFL's Saints on a five-game winning streak and wrapping up a playoff spot, the Hornets-and-Paul saga was the talk of New Orleans for a change.

"Our sole focus was and will remain, until we sell this team, hopefully which will be in the first half of 2012, how best to maintain the Hornets, make them as attractive and as competitive as we can and ensure we have a buyer who can keep them in New Orleans," Stern said.

The 26-year-old Paul is a four-time All-Star who averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 assists last season, his sixth in the NBA. He will earn $16.4 million this year and has a player option for the 2012-13 season — in which he is due $17.8 million.

Paul's move to the Clippers unites him with forward Blake Griffin, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, his first as a pro.

The Hornets get a prolific young shooting guard in Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas Day and averaged 22.3 points last season. Gordon would be a restricted free agent after this season unless he signs an extension with New Orleans.

Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie.

Kaman, 29, is an eight-year veteran who averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds last season, but played in only 32 games because of a left ankle injury. He's in the last year of his contract, which will pay him $12.2 million this season.

"With this trade, we now have three additional players who were among the top eight draft picks in their respective drafts as well as our own first-round pick and (another) first-round pick," Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. "Aminu is a young talent with a bright future, Gordon is a big-time scorer and one of the best (shooting) guards in the league and Kaman is a proven center and former All-Star."

New Orleans also sent two 2015 second-round draft picks to the Clippers.

"We wanted to make sure that we got the best possible deal for a player of Chris' caliber, and we feel great about the outcome," said Jac Sperling, who Stern appointed as the Hornets' governor after the league bought the team in December 2010.

Paul, whom the Hornets drafted fourth overall in 2005, told New Orleans earlier this month that he was not going to sign an extension, and Demps had been trying to trade him since to avoid losing him in free agency with no compensation after this season.

Demps came close to making a three-team deal last Thursday that would have sent Paul to the Lakers. The Lakers would have sent Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to Houston, while the Rockets would have sent Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans.

Stern, however, told Demps to take that deal off the table because he thought the Hornets could do better, both in terms of personnel and salary obligations.

The Hornets have only five returning veterans under contract: center Emeka Okafor, forward Trevor Ariza, point guard Jarrett Jack, second-year swingman Quincy Pondexter and shooting guard Marco Belinelli.

The addition of Gordon, Aminu and Kaman give New Orleans desperately needed depth while opening the way for the franchise to further strengthen its roster through free agency.

Meanwhile, the Hornets also could look forward to an additional first-round draft choice next summer. The pick originally belonged to Minnesota, meaning it will be tied to where the Timberwolves finish in the standings this season.

Bulls land Hamilton


DEERFIELD ILLINOIS — Veteran guard Richard Hamilton has signed with the Chicago Bulls, joining MVP Derrick Rose in what figures to be a deep backcourt.

Terms were not released, but a person familiar with the situation said earlier in the day it's a three-year, $15 million deal. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the contract had not been finalized.

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