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David Stern calls Pelicans’ Dell Demps a ‘lousy general manager’ after explaining nixed Chris Paul trade


Former NBA commissioner David Stern finally provided some much-needed clarity on Chris Paul’s vetoed trade to the Los Angeles Lakers, a move that would have paired him with the since-retired Kobe Bryant and written a complete different chapter in league history. His explanation, though clear, took a veiled shot at standing New Orleans Pelicans general manager Dell Demps, who took part in the nixed deal.

For a memory refresher, the then-New Orleans Hornets were ready to package Paul in a trade before losing him as a free agent and reports suggested he was just about ready to be in purple-and-gold before Stern blocked the trade, a move that would set up the L.A. Clippers for relevance during the next few years.

Stern, who filled in as a representative for the league-owned Hornets at the time, explained to Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated how the entire trade fell apart.

“[Demps] had agreed to [trade Paul to the Lakers for] Kevin Martin and Luis Scola or something, and I said we can do better than that… And the next trade was [to the Clippers for] Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu and what we thought was a really great draft pick, the 10th pick, which turned out to be Austin Rivers. At least those three and someone else [center Chris Kaman]. But Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis.”

Asked of why he vetoed the trade, Stern clarified it wasn’t a veto, but rather his ultimate disapproval of the trade at hand. Reporters had the information coming from the front office, but Stern was the last line of checks, acting as one and denying it outright, as an NBA owner could.

“I did it because I was protecting the then Hornets…. To this day everyone always asks me, ‘Well why did you keep Chris Paul from going to the Lakers?’ I didn’t keep him. I didn’t approve the trade. No team sells or trades a future Hall of Famer without the owner signing off, and I was the owner’s rep. But I wasn’t going to hand up Dell Demps.”

While Stern still gets plenty of flack from Lakers fans who would have loved to see a Paul-Bryant tandem, things eventually turned around when some others cried for now-commissioner Adam Silver to keep DeMarcus Cousins from signing with the Golden State Warriors for the mid-level exception.

“Now when DeMarcus Cousins signs with Golden State, then the great unwashed Twitter says, ‘Adam Silver should be like Stern and stop him from going.’ Oh, O.K., guys, that’s great! Right? That’s ridiculous. Step up, strap on a set. It’s stupid.”

Paul’s would-have-been trade to the Lakers will go down as one of many of the controversies surrounding Stern during his 30-year span as a commissioner of the league. Yet this clears up a lot of rumors pointing at his intent from keeping the Lakers from starting another dynasty.