The NBA’s veto of the Chris Paul-Los Angeles Lakers trade created a butterfly effect that still influences the balance of power in the league today. Now Paul is offering some insights into what he thought of the whole ordeal at the time.
Appearing this week on the “Knuckleheads” podcast with retired former LA Clippers Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson, Paul said he was angry when the deal got nixed, especially as he had already spoken with Kobe Bryant.
“I was on the phone with my brother and my agent, and all that,” said Paul, per Silver Screen and Roll. “We figuring out a plane to get to New Orleans to get us to LA … Let’s just say my agent clicked over, said hold on, clicked over and then he came back on and he was like, stuttering. And we was hot. We was hot. Me and Kobe had talked, you know what I’m saying? We had talked already and all that. And it was a lot. It was a lot.”
Paul, then with the New Orleans Hornets, would have gone to the Lakers in a three-way trade with a Pau Gasol-based package going to the Houston Rockets and a Lamar Odom-Goran Dragic-based package going back to New Orleans. The Hornets were under league ownership at the time, however, and then-commissioner David Stern vetoed the deal, citing “basketball reasons.”
The LA Clippers then swooped in and acquired Paul instead, immediately igniting their “Lob City” era of playoff contention. The Lakers, meanwhile, underachieved for the rest of Bryant’s career (including an ill-fated trade for Dwight Howard the next year) and have only now retaken their place among the league’s elite. The post-Paul Hornets (later the Pelicans) were bad enough that they were able to draft Anthony Davis No. 1 overall in 2012, and the Rockets used their assets to trade for James Harden later that year instead.
While Paul is now on a surprisingly fun Oklahoma City team and is nearly a decade removed from the Lakers saga, it still looms as one of the greatest what-ifs in NBA history. Even Bryant once lamented the failure of the Paul deal.