Bloomberg News

NBA’s Stern Says Paul Trade Veto Based on Value to Hornets

December 09, 2011

(Updates with addition comments from Hunter comments, background beginning in fifth paragraph.)

Dec. 9 (Bloomberg) -- National Basketball Association Commissioner David Stern said today he vetoed the trade of Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers because it was “more valuable” to keep the All-Star guard with the New Orleans Hornets.

The head of the NBA players union, Billy Hunter, said his group will investigate Stern’s actions and decide its next moves. He said a lawsuit wasn’t being considered “at this moment.”

Both Stern and Hunter spoke in brief interviews at the NBA’s New York headquarters building lobby a day after the commissioner blocked Paul’s trade to the Lakers, a deal criticized by some team owners.

The league owns the Hornets and is trying to sell the club.

The three-team trade would have sent Lakers forward Lamar Odom to the Hornets, who also would have received guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, forward Luis Scola and a first-round draft pick from the Houston Rockets, according to Yahoo! Sports. Houston would have gotten the Lakers’ Pau Gasol in the exchange.

Dan Gilbert of the Cleveland Cavaliers was among league owners who pushed Stern to nullify the trade and make the Hornets keep Paul, a four-time All-Star who can become a free agent after this season, according to an e-mail Gilbert sent to the commissioner and was shared with Bloomberg News.

‘Basketball Reasons

NBA spokesman Tim Frank said earlier that the deal was vetoed for “basketball reasons.”

“That’s all they said to us,” Hunter said today after signing the 10-year collective bargaining agreement between the league and its players, which ended a five-month lockout. “No other explanation.”

Stern said that he wouldn’t discuss further trades.

“I’ll leave that to the team as the discussion goes on,” he said. “I don’t want to speak on the basketball side but that particular one was weighed against Chris Paul’s continued presence in New Orleans, which was deemed preferable.”

In a separate comment, Stern again said Paul should remain with the Hornets.

“The decision was taken that Chris Paul in New Orleans was more valuable than the trade that was being discussed,” the commissioner said.

Hunter said he spoke with Paul last night and was waiting to hear from him again today. He said he expected Paul to be in Hornets’ training camp, which opened today.

‘Investigate Further’

“It’s not an issue about it sitting OK with us,” Hunter said. “Right now what we’ve got to do is look at the circumstances and investigate it further. In any instance where the league declines a contract, we have a right to review it and if we think it was inappropriate we have a right to challenge it.”

Hunter said that after talking with Paul again, “we’ll probably have some discussions with the NBA later this afternoon.”

Stern’s decision came the same day the NBA and it players ratified the labor agreement. The contract, reached after a five-month lockout and 2 1/2 years of discussions, aims to promote competitive balance by boosting small-market teams.

Last season, some of the game’s biggest stars left for larger markets. LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat and Carmelo Anthony was traded to the New York Knicks from Denver.

Gilbert called the proposed Paul trade a “travesty” in his e-mail to Stern and asked that it be put to a vote of the league’s 29 owners.

The regular season, shortened to 66 games from 82 following the 161-day lockout, is scheduled to begin Dec. 25. Teams officially may begin signing players and making trades as of 2 p.m. New York time today.

--With assistance from Scott Soshnick in New York and Bob Bensch in London. Editors: Larry Siddons, Jay Beberman.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mason Levinson in New York at mlevinson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.


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