Chris Paul deal could be a turning point for Clippers

Team acquires All-Star point guard from the Hornets, something the Lakers could not pull off. The cost is high, but the payoff could be big.

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Chris PaulNew Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul was traded to the Clippers on Wednesday. (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press / December 9, 2011)
By Broderick TurnerDecember 14, 2011, 9:45 p.m.

The Clippers pulled off the biggest trade in franchise history, acquiring New Orleans Hornets four-time All-Star point guard Chris Paul in a blockbuster deal that took many twists and turns before coming to fruition Wednesday.

The Clippers sent guard Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and his expiring $12.7-million contract to the Hornets, along with second-year forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the 2012 unprotected first-round draft pick the Clippers acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2005.

The Clippers also get two 2015 second-round draft picks from the Hornets.

After a Lakers deal for Paul was killed twice by the NBA last week, much had been made about the Clippers’ unwillingness to put Gordon in the deal, about the NBA hijacking the process from New Orleans General Manager Dell Demps and about the league’s high asking price.

The Clippers balked at a deal last week and pulled out of negotiations again Monday morning after another round of talks with the NBA on Sunday night.

The NBA initiated talks again with the Clippers on Tuesday afternoon, and those seemed to go nowhere as well.

Each time, the reports were that the NBA wanted Gordon and the first-round pick — which is expected to be very high — and that the Clippers viewed that as too much.

In the end, the Clippers sent both to the Hornets.

But the Clippers didn’t trade second-year point guard Eric Bledsoe, whose name also had been mentioned in the talks.

The Clippers said they will have a news conference Thursday with Paul, Coach Vinny Del Negro and Neil Olshey, the team’s vice president of basketball operations, at the team’s training facility in Playa Vista.

The deal already has sent reverberations throughout the NBA.

“I think that the Clippers are finally relevant,” former Phoenix Suns general manager Steve Kerr, an NBA analyst for TNT, said Wednesday night in a telephone interview on NBA TV. “Man, it looks like the Clippers are actually poised to kind of take over that town. [Paul] is the guy that’s going to take them to the next step.”

Paul, 26, due to earn $16.3 million this season, informed the Clippers that he will pick up his option for the 2012-13 season at $17.7 million.

That means he will play alongside Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin for at least two seasons. The hope inside the Clippers’ front office is that Paul will want to sign a long-term extension.

“The Clippers are going to be nice,” Shaquille O’Neal, the former Laker who now works as a studio analyst for TNT, said in a phone interview Wednesday.

“They’ve got Chris Paul, Caron [Butler], my man Blake Griffin. They’ve got the potential to do some damage in the playoffs, especially with the shortened 66-game season. I can’t wait to watch them play.”

The addition of Paul gives the Clippers a crowded backcourt of point guards.

They have Mo Williams, whom they acquired last season for Baron Davis.

They have Chauncey Billups, whom they acquired by winning a waiver auction bid Sunday night after the New York Knicks used the new amnesty provision on him.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

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