Some of us can’t help but feel sorry for Chris Paul, a 12-time NBA All-Star widely regarded as one of the greatest point guards of all time. On top of not winning a title, the most dramatic moment of his career happened when “CP3” almost took a step closer to becoming a part of a serious title-contending team-the Los Angeles Lakers.
Back in December of 2011, the league was coming off a lockout, but more importantly, a blockbuster trade that would send Paul to the Lakers was in the works. Reports at the time said that the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets, and the Houston Rockets have already agreed to a three-way deal that would see LA offloading Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in exchange for Paul. A number of players were reportedly included as well, but needless to say, the most talked-about angle of the story was the idea of having Paul and the late Kobe Bryant on the same team.
It was almost a done deal until then NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed the entire thing. Lakers executive Jeanie Buss later divulged that the trade fell apart due to a miscommunication between Stern and then Hornets GM Dell Demps. However, former NBA star Gilbert Arenas, who was playing for the Orlando Magic at the time, has a different version of the story.
Ten years after the deal collapsed, Arenas told Paul about how things played out based on the information he gathered back then.
According to Arenas, the NBA high-ups at the time reckoned that apart from acquiring Paul, the Lakers would still enjoy a large cap space and could still add more stars, specifically “2 more max players.” Simply put, the Purple and Gold would dominate the league, and Arenas said the NBA didn’t want that to happen.
“So when it got nixed, I’m like ‘Damn what happened?” Arenas told Paul on the “No Chill” podcast last year. “He [NBA agent Dan Fagan] said it was unfair. He said, ‘What was in the background of all that was Dwight Howard being traded for Bynum.’ Remember, I’m in Orlando. I’m already talking to Otis [Orlando Magic GM] and it was like, ‘Dwight don’t want to stay.’ This was when the amnesty was coming. So Orlando, they’re trying to figure out if they were going to throw me in the deal and force [the] Lakers: if you want Dwight you’re gonna have to take Gilbert’s contract too. I was probably gonna get amnesty, basically, after all y’all superteam got together, y’all had too much money left. That was the reason it got nixed.”
According to Agent Zer, NBA agent Dan Fagan reached out to Marc Cuban, and they crunched the numbers. By their estimation, the Lakers would've had Kobe, CP3, Dwight, and two max spots open, given the fact they would've had ”24-30 million dollars left in cap space” and the going rate for a max player at the time was “about 12-13 million.”
CP3 was ready to join the Purple and Gold
In the end, Paul still took his talents to California that year but instead, he wound up joining the Clippers, the other LA team he played for until 2017. However, he once admitted that he had already talked to Kobe about it and was ready to become a Laker when the NBA shut it down.
“I was on the phone with my brother and my agent, and all that,” Paul said of his vetoed trade to the Lakers. “We figuring out a plane to get to New Orleans to get us to LA ... let’s just say my agent clicked over, said hold on, clicked over and then he came back on and he was like, stuttering. And we was hot. We was hot. Me and Kobe had talked, you know what I’m saying? We had talked already and all that. And it was a lot. It was a lot.”
Undeniably, the NBA would’ve had a different landscape had the Lakers managed to sign Paul in 2011. We can also argue that the next three or five years would’ve been different as well and who knows, CP3 would’ve been a champion by now.