Dec. 8, 2011 is a date that will forever live on in the minds of Los Angeles Lakers fans. It was a day that they will not remember fondly, as the Lakers had acquired superstar point guard Chris Paul in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets, a deal that would quickly be vetoed by then-NBA commissioner David Stern.
The initial agreement was a three-way trade between the Lakers, Hornets and Houston Rockets that would have sent Paul to Los Angeles, Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a couple of draft picks to New Orleans and Pau Gasol to Houston.
It certainly seemed like a rather strange return for the Hornets, as they were bringing in a haul of mostly veteran players in spite of the fact that they were clearly entering rebuilding mode.
Apparently, Stern thought so, as well, which was why he nixed the deal.
Had the trade gone through, the Lakers would have had a trio of Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum and Paul, and at that time, the feeling was that Los Angeles would have tried to flip Bynum to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.
Of course, the Magic ended up holding on to Howard through the rest of that season before ultimately trading him to the Lakers that ensuing summer, so we don’t know if LA would have landed Dwight that year, but let’s for a second ponder what could have been had the league allowed the initial Paul trade to go through.
Obviously, the Lakers would have had the best backcourt in the NBA in Bryant and Paul. That much we know. The thing that so many people seem to be forgetting, however, is that Los Angeles didn’t exactly have much depth.
Both Odom and Gasol were crucial pieces in the Lakers’ championships in 2009 and 2010, and both of those players would have gone in the deal. That would have left LA with Bryant, Paul, Bynum, a declining Metta World Peace and not much else.
The rest of the roster consisted of well-past-their-prime veterans such as Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes and Steve Blake, and in a conference that included the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, I’m not sure the Bryant-CP3-Bynum trio would have been enough.
Let’s also remember that at that time, Bryant was on the downside of his career. He was still elite, but he was no longer the dominant force he had been in previous years.
Bryant then went on to tear his Achilles the following season.
Why, then, do so many people automatically assume that the Lakers would have won multiple titles had Stern not killed the Paul deal?
Again, this was an aging group of which its best days were clearly in the rearview mirror. Yes, Paul was still in the early stages of his prime, but he showed with the Clippers that that doesn’t guarantee you anything.
I know Lakers fans love to rail against Stern and the league for thwarting what they think would have been an incredible run, but when you really look at the facts, you should realize that LA probably would not have been much better off had the CP3 trade not been voided.