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NBA target of criticism

Nixed trade is drawing ire; Hornets still try to deal Paul

His trade to the Lakers off the table, Chris Paul was at practice with the Hornets. His trade to the Lakers off the table, Chris Paul was at practice with the Hornets. (Gerald herbert/Associated Press)
By Brian Mahoney
Associated Press / December 10, 2011
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NEW YORK - NBA teams went back to work yesterday, which for Chris Paul meant going back to New Orleans.

And there was disbelief and anger around the league - and a commitment to try again to find him a new home.

Commissioner David Stern killed the Hornets’ first attempt at moving their All-Star point guard, but New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is working to put together a new deal.

“Yes. People are still calling,’’ Demps said. “People are still calling and we’re calling people, so we’re confident we can get a deal.’’

Paul could have been in Los Angeles yesterday, ready to pair up with Kobe Bryant as the next star in Hollywood. That fell apart Thursday when the league, which owns the Hornets, rejected a three-team trade the club had agreed to for “basketball reasons,’’ denying the decision came about because of pressure on Stern from irate owners.

And instead of the immediate boost the league craved coming out the lockout with free agency and training camps opening, it found itself with another public relations disaster.

“That’s the first thing I thought. We just got done arguing for four or five months and everyone just wants to see basketball and now this. Huge controversy, again with NBA owners,’’ said Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver, the Timberwolves’ player representative. “I just hope it doesn’t damage everybody and hope it doesn’t affect everybody in the whole league, which I think it possibly could. It’s a really big deal.’’

The 26-year-old Paul was seen walking into New Orleans’ training facility wearing a black Hornets practice jersey but did not speak to the media.

“Being a really good friend of mine, like a brother to me, I’m frustrated for him,’’ LeBron James said after the Heat’s first practice. “I support him and hopefully things get resolved, fast, for him and his family.’’

Though he nixed the deal, Stern has reason for wanting the same teams to work something out. If not, and another team eventually makes a trade that is approved, it will be difficult to shake the perception that the league was dictating where it wanted Paul to go.

Demps said the team has resumed talks for Paul - to any team - and that he has been given autonomy to make another trade, one he hopes will keep the Hornets competitive now and create a promising future.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said the league went through the lockout to prevent this very type of deal in which small-market teams lose their superstars. And a letter from Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to Stern clearly showed he, too, objected to the deal.

“I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen,’’ Gilbert wrote in the letter, which was obtained by The New York Times.

Hall of Famer Magic Johnson took the opposite stance, writing on Twitter he said it was the “wrong decision’’ by Stern and the owners.

The Hornets would have received Lamar Odom, last year’s top sixth man, from the Lakers, as well as forward Luis Scola, shooting guard Kevin Martin, point guard Goran Dragic, and a first-round draft choice from the Houston Rockets. And the Lakers’ Pau Gasol would have gone to the Rockets.

That’s far better than the Hornets may get in another deal, since many teams are hesitant to offer top players in case Paul stays only one season.

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