Shortly after the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, and New Orleans Hornets agreed on a trade proposal that would send Hornets all-world point guard Chris Paul to L.A., the NBA nixed the deal and told all players involved to report to their current teams' training camps Friday, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Commissioner David Stern killed the trade because, Wojnarowski says, "a chorus of owners were irate with the belief that the five-month lockout had happened largely to stop big-market teams from leveraging small-market teams for star players pending free agency." The NBA is the Hornets' custodian, meaning the owners of the other 29 teams also, in a way, own the Hornets.
Notably, Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times cites a source as disputing Wojnarowski's report. "Not true that owners killed the deal," Bresnahan quotes his source as saying. "League office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons."
The situation has several implications for the Orlando Magic. Having been rebuffed in their efforts to land Paul as their star of the future, the Lakers could redouble their efforts to pry Dwight Howard from Orlando. With Paul off the table for L.A., Howard becomes its top target; Deron Williams, who like Paul and Howard is eligible for free agency in 2012, could also draw more attention from L.A. as a result of this news. This is the negative news from a Magic standpoint.
The news isn't all bad, however, as I'll outline below the jump.
But on a happier note, from an Orlando perspective, it keeps Paul on the trade market. Ken Berger reported a week ago that Paul informed the Hornets in July 2010 he wanted them to trade him to one of three teams: the Lakers, New York Knicks, and Orlando. With Los Angeles now out of the running and New York wanting for trade assets, Orlando might have just taken the lead in the Paul sweepstakes, assuming he hasn't had a change of heart between last July and now.
Put the July 2010 request together with the news that Paul and Howard have spoken recently about teaming up and the possibility of a Paul/Howard pairing becomes a bit more real. Add the New Orleans Times-Picayune report that Orlando is among several teams to have "preliminary trade discussions" with the Hornets regarding Paul, and... you get the idea.
Obviously, there are obstacles to any trade, and Orlando's biggest at the moment is coming up with enough assets to convince New Orleans to pull the trigger on a Paul deal. In the one the NBA killed tonight, the Hornets would have received Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and a future first-round draft pick. If you buy Bresnahan's source saying the league nixed the trade for basketball reasons, that means it didn't think that package was good enough for Paul. Orlando cannot, on its own, put together a deal nearly as attractive; about the best it could hope for is that Houston is still interested in facilitating a trade, which seems doubtful because, under the one the league killed, it would have received Pau Gasol. Without the Lakers' involvement, there's simply no incentive for the Rockets to get involved.
Again, there are complications. But in the NBA, superstars ultimately have the final say where they'll play, even after the latest lockout. I'm behind Henry Abbott all the way when he argues that's not a bad thing:
In deciding where Chris Paul ought to live after his contract is up in New Orleans, there is a list of people who need to weigh in. The list is: 1) Chris Paul and 2) his family. There is no number 3.
That's the freedom Paul has earned not by being an NBA player, nor by being a superstar. That's the freedom he has earned by being an adult in the free world.
We're in for a nutty season, and the rumors haven't even begun to really start swirling yet. Get ready.