x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Chris Paul's trade to Clippers impacts Los Angeles Lakers

They look a year older and slower. And their play demonstrates on an almost nightly basis their glaring need for a quick, young point guard like Paul.

Chris Paul starred for the West in their 152-149 win over the East in the All-Star Game in Orlando on Sunday.
Chris Paul starred for the West in their 152-149 win over the East in the All-Star Game in Orlando on Sunday.

Here they came on the fast break, Chris Paul with the ball, looking one way and passing another, a sharp bounce pass that finds Kobe Bryant as he slices to the basket.

Just the way the Los Angeles Lakers had it figured. Just the way they thought it would work for several years to come.

Only this was in Sunday's NBA All-Star game in Orlando, the only time you will see those two stars wearing the same uniform. It was a nice play, but Paul was much more successful finding forward Blake Griffin, which is understandable, since it is Griffin who is now Paul's teammate at the Los Angeles Clippers.

The trade that was, then wasn't, figures to impact both teams, if not the NBA, for years to come.

In the off-season, the Lakers thought they had worked a three-team deal to get Paul from the New Orleans Hornets. But in a puzzling and awkward decision, David Stern, the commissioner, vetoed the trade.

With the NBA currently owning the Hornets, Stern is their de facto chief executive. He was sticking up for smaller market teams who were against the Lakers acquiring another star player, even though all three teams involved and many NBA followers felt it was a fair deal.

"It was a disappointing experience," Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers general manager, said.

"It's the first time I've ever been through something like that."

After Stern vetoed that deal, he approved a subsequent trade of Paul to the Clippers for three marginal players and a draft pick. The Clippers have been invigorated by Paul's arrival and they lead the Pacific Division with a 19-10 record.

Historically a poor second-class team in Los Angeles to the Lakers, the Clippers have sold out all 16 of their homes games.

The ratings for their nationally televised games are up 53 per cent over last season, and their regionally televised games are up 138 per cent.

They are young, athletic and hip. They look at their future, while the Lakers look at their past.

The Lakers are only 1.5 games behind the Clippers, but every victory seems a struggle. They look a year older and slower. And their play demonstrates on an almost nightly basis their glaring need for a quick, young point guard like Paul.

Trade rumours continue to swirl around Pau Gasol, who would have gone to Houston in the Lakers' original deal.

Bryant became so irritated with the distractions last week he said: "I wish management would come out and either trade him or not trade him."

Meanwhile, the Hornets are 8-25, going nowhere this season or in the foreseeable future.

WEEKLY REVIEW

Players of the week
• Kevin Durant, Oklahoma Thunder. Averaged 30.7 points, 7 rebounds and 5.3 assists in three games and was named MVP of the All-Star game after scoring 36 points.
• Deron Williams, New Jersey Nets. Averaged 30.5 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds. Scored 38 in a rematch against the New York Knicks.
• Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic. Averaged 20 points and 15 rebounds, while adding 2.7 blocks and 3.7 assists.

Teams of the week
• Miami Heat. Won three more games to push their winning streak to eight. They also took away some of the Jeremy Lin mystique, holding him to 1-for-11 shooting.
• Oklahoma City. The Thunder went 4-0 and sent a message to the Los Angeles Lakers with a 100-85 victory Thursday.

Duds of the week
• NBA slam dunk contest. The annual event was a big-name no-show. Jeremy Evans of the Utah Jazz was the winner.
• Stephen Jackson, Milwaukee. He looks done at age 34; only 10.5 points per game, while shooting 35.7 per cent. And now he is out with a sore hamstring.


WEEKLY PREVIEW

Games of the week
• Chicago at San Antonio, tomorrow. The Spurs have won 12 of their last 13 and are 13-1 at home.
• Oklahoma City at Orlando, Thursday. The Thunder are 12-6 on the road, which just happens to be Orlando’s home record.
• Miami at Los Angeles Lakers, Sunday. LeBron James v Kobe Bryant, always great stuff. Lakers are in need of a significant win.

sports@thenational.ae