When you're the commissioner and you have two teams that are ticked off at you, as in the Lakers and Houston, and the GMs without wanting to be attributed, spend their time trashing you, the wrong impression can be granted. It was one of the few times I decided to just go radio silent and let it play out, and I got killed. So, the answer is: There was never a trade. It was never approved by me as the owner rep.
Thursday marked five years since the NBA vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers, and former Commissioner David Stern discussed the controversial decision during a recent question-and-answer session with students from the Marist College Center for Sports Communication and Columbia University sports management program Tuesday.
Responding to a question regarding the call to cancel the blockbuster deal, Stern explained the NBA stepped in because the New Orleans Hornets were a league-owned entity when the deal was initially agreed upon.
"I'm going to correct your language: What 'cancellation'? The GM [Dell Demps] was not authorized to make that trade," Stern said (h/t RealGM). "And acting on behalf of owners, we decided not to make it. I was an owner rep. There was nothing to 'void.' It just never got made."
Stern's complete response can be heard beginning at the 1:01 mark below:
At the time of the veto, Stern merely cited "basketball reasons" to explain why the league office did not push the deal through.
During the discussion Tuesday, he elaborated on why he opted to stay out of the spotlight:
The initial trade agreement would have shipped Paul to the Lakers; Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets; and a package featuring Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, Luis Scola and a first-round draft pick to the Big Easy.
But once that deal was squashed, the Hornets had to turn elsewhere to find a taker for Paul. That led them to the Los Angeles Clippers, who traded Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a 2012 first-round pick that turned into Austin Rivers in exchange for the star floor general.
Ever since then, NBA fans have been left to wonder how the league would have changed if Paul had ultimately wound up donning purple and gold.
Not only would Paul have been able to team up with Kobe Bryant, but the Hornets could have also feasibly thrived with Odom, Dragic and Co. and subsequently been left without franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis—whom they selected after winning the 2012 lottery.
Then there are the Clippers, who have made the playoffs every year since Paul joined forces with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
Without CP3 in tow, it's fair to wonder whether the Clippers would have been forced to scrap for playoff spots rather than residing in the Western Conference's top tier—where they've comfortably remained after winning 53-plus games in each of the past four seasons.