NEW ORLEANS // Chris Paul is heading to Los Angeles for real this time - to the Clippers, not the Lakers.
The New Orleans Hornets traded the All-Star guard to the Clippers for the guard Eric Gordon, the forward Al-Farouq Aminu, the centre Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice. The deal required the approval of David Stern, the NBA commissioner, because the Hornets are owned by the league.
The trade ended a tortured week in which the Hornets' roster sat in limbo after the NBA vetoed a trade to the Lakers. The league took a public relations beating over everything from potential conflicts of interest to retarding the Hornets' pursuit of free agents.
"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."
Stern said he never allowed the opinions of other owners or considerations of large and small markets to determine where Paul, one of the NBA's biggest stars, would end up. He said his only focus was on getting the best deal for the Hornets.
That may take time to determine. But for now, the Hornets at last have a measure of certainty about the roster they will have when the regular season begins in less than two weeks.
Paul, already a star with international appeal, gets to play in one of the NBA's biggest markets, even if his new team plays in the shadow of the Lakers.
That is the club Paul was almost traded to last week, only to have Stern veto 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 labour dispute that has already caused a shortening of the season.
Paul, 26, is a four-time All-Star who averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 assists last season. He will earn US$16.4 million (Dh60m) this year and has a player option for the 2012/13 season - in which he is due $17.8m.
Paul's move to the Clippers means he will now be able to make alley-oop lobs to a young star famous for dunking over a car. That would be Blake Griffin, the forward, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, his first as a professional.
The Hornets get a prolific young shooting guard in Gordon, who turns 23 on December 25 and averaged 22.3 points last season. Aminu is a second-year professional 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.
"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," said Paul Demps, the New Orleans general manager.
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.
* Associated Press