However, 45 minutes after the teams reached an agreement, one guy put a stop to it. David Stern came to the league's rescue, vetoing the deal that would've formed NBA's most formidable backcourt partnership. It was a league-rocking decision and the one that many described as controversial. But it was within the limits of Stern's authority.
Other than being league’s commissioner at the time, Stern was Hornets’ owner rep, as the league had purchased the organization from George Shinn in ’10. The Hornets’ front office had complete autonomy to make personnel decisions they saw fit, but that was until they decided to ship CP3 to LA. It was the first time the league had stepped in, and Stern saw nothing wrong with it. The league did what every NBA GM would’ve done – they did what was best for the franchise.
The GM Dell Demps was not authorized to make that trade. And acting on behalf of owners, we decided not to make it. There was nothing to 'void.' It just never got made.
David Stern, Sports Business Radio Podcast
Stern basically said there was never a trade in the first place since it was never approved by him as the owner rep. But it was an explanation offered years later. At the time of the deal being the hot topic in NBA circles, people were fuming at Stern's decision. Most saw the move as a way of protecting the league's interest and retaining the NBA's competitive balance. But Stern saw it as protecting league's franchise from getting the shorter end of the stick in the deal.
Nevertheless, Stern's decision rubbed many the wrong way. The one who went through the biggest emotional rollercoaster was Chris Paul. The Lakers were his preferred destination, as he had made it clear to the Hornets that he was out. Paul discovered he had already talked to Kobe about them teaming up when he heard that the deal was off.
I was on the phone with my brother and my agent, and all that. 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.
Chris Paul, Knuckleheads
It's safe to say Paul was unhappy with the way things turned out, and so were the Lakers' fans. When you think about it, Stern vetoing the deal had a huge impact on many NBA careers. It raises a series of questions on how things would've played out differently if Paul ended up in purple and gold. Would Paul have a ring today? Would his arrival have prolonged Kobe's career?
That's why this is one of the greatest „what ifs?“ in league's history. It's the decision that impacted the NBA careers of many. Things sure would've been a lot different if the Lakers were able to acquire Paul at the time.
Instead, CP was traded to the Clippers just a week later. The Hornets acquired a package of Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu, and Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick. If they had traded CP to the Lakers, they would've received Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, Goran Dragic, and a 2012 first-round pick from the Knicks. It seems that they would've gotten a much better return if they'd sent Paul to the Lakers.
Looking at it makes you wonder: did Stern really do what was best for the franchise, or what was he prioritizing league's interest? Because the package the Hornets received sure makes Stern's intentions questionable.