As part of the deal, Paul has agreed to not opt out of his contract after this season – allowing the Clippers to keep him at least through the 2012-13 season.
The trade was formally approved Wednesday night. Paul plans to fly to Los Angeles Thursday to be introduced by the Clippers.
"Today was a big day for the New Orleans," Hornets general manager Dell Demps said. "It was bittersweet."
The trade ends an embarrassing week-long drama that began when the Hornets, Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets reached agreement on a three-team trade to send Paul to the Lakers only to have NBA commissioner David Stern veto the deal after rival team owners complained. The three teams tried to restructure the trade, but the Lakers eventually backed out when it was clear the league's demands couldn't be met.
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert called the proposed trade to the Lakers a "travesty" in an email to Stern and said he didn’t know how the league could allow the deal to happen. The email, which was also sent to deputy commissioner Adam Silver and a handful of team owners and was obtained by Y! Sports, asked Stern to put the trade to a vote of the league’s 29 owners.
Demps was pushed out of negotiations by the league and Stern appointed two of his top officials – Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin – to head talks. The Clippers balked at the league's demands for Paul on Monday. Team officials were worried that surrendering Gordon and the unprotected Minnesota pick – which could rank in the top five of the 2012 draft – would deprive them of two of the top assets they could use to keep Paul for the long-term.
"Let's not worry about how the sausage was made," Stern said on a conference call late Wednesday.
After the Clippers called off trade negotiations Monday, general manager Neil Olshey and coach Vinny Del Negro met with players and told them the team was moving forward with its current group. Shortly afterward, the Clippers acquired veteran guard Chauncey Billups by claiming him off the league’s amnesty waiver. Under league rules, Billups can’t be traded this season.
Olshey allowed for the possible resumption of trade talks while speaking to reporters in Los Angeles. After acquiring Billups, the Clippers hoped to leverage the NBA into lowering its demands for Paul. In the end, the Clippers were able to keep young guard Eric Bledsoe, but had to give up both Gordon and the Minnesota pick.
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"The only thing we were interested in was getting the best value," Stern said.
After blocking the Hornets' initial trade of Paul to the Lakers, the NBA made clear it would need a package of young players and draft picks in return for parting with one of the league's top point guards. In their proposed trade with the Rockets and Lakers, the Hornets would have received forwards Luis Scola and Lamar Odom and guards Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, plus a first-round pick.
The NBA took ownership of the Hornets in December 2010 after previous owner George Shinn couldn't find a buyer. The league has angled to maintain the franchise's value to sell it for the highest possible price.
Stern said Wednesday the NBA will consider only potential buyers who plan to keep the Hornets in New Orleans.
ESPN.com first reported the NBA and Clippers had agreed on the trade.
The Clippers have dramatically reshaped their roster around Griffin. They signed veteran small forward Caron Butler to a three-year, $24 million contract and also retained young center DeAndre Jordan by matching the four-year, $43 million offer sheet the Golden State Warriors gave him. The Clippers' current roster is loaded with point guards: Paul, Billups, Bledsoe, who is currently hurt, and Mo Williams. Billups' agent, Andy Miller, said the team isn't expected to waive him.
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