The Los Angeles Clippers celebrated their trade for Chris Paul as a landmark moment for the woeful franchise. Eric Gordon and Chris Kaman can be excused for not joining in the celebration. The two players were sent to the New Orleans Hornets as part of the deal – just two days after Clippers officials told them they would not be traded.
And while Gordon and Kaman are excited about the opportunity to start over with the Hornets, they aren't too happy with their former team.
“All you do is take the man’s word and take that he said that no one is going to go anywhere," Gordon told Yahoo! Sports. "… To completely lie like that is something unprofessional."
After trade talks with the Hornets stalled Dec. 12, Clippers general manager Neil Olshey and coach Vinny Del Negro gathered the team's players who had guaranteed contracts and told them the franchise planned to move forward with its current group. Gordon and Kaman now think they were deceived. Olshey disagrees.
“I’m not deceptive enough to look players in the eye and tell them something that is not true," Olshey said. "And I can tell you from an ownership level, the president of our company, myself, we made a corporate decision Monday morning that when the deal didn’t go through on Sunday night we would no longer pursue the trade. And that’s when we notified our players, to get the elephant out of the room during our abbreviated training camp.”
Later that same day, the Clippers claimed veteran point guard Chauncey Billups off amnesty waivers. Olshey said he was surprised to receive a call the following day from the Hornets – or NBA officials orchestrating the trade for the Hornets – wanting to restart trade talks. On Dec. 14, the Clippers agreed to send Gordon, Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the Minnesota Timberwolves' unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick for Paul and a pair of future second-round choices. Gordon, a talented young guard, and the T'wolves' draft pick were considered the Clippers' most coveted trade assets. The Clippers were able to retain injured young point guard Eric Bledsoe.
[ Related: Hornets get Xavier Henry in trade ]
“They came back to us with what we felt like was a more appropriate compensation package and we decided to do the deal,” Olshey said.
Said Gordon: "They literally told me as an organization that they wanted to keep me, and [the trade still] went down?”
News of the trade broke via Twitter and other social media outlets while Gordon and Kaman were at community events with Clippers season-ticket holders. Gordon found out while he was on a bus for the event and tweeted, “Wow.” Kaman found out from his real-estate agent’s son.
“He said, ‘Hey, you got traded.’ I was like, ‘C’mon,’ ” Kaman said. “Then everyone started talking to me like, ‘Hey, what happened?’ I was like, ‘I don’t know.’ Then my agent wasn’t calling me. I couldn’t get ahold of him. Then Farouq talked to his agent and said it was done.
“The Clippers didn’t tell me anything. They didn’t tell me I was traded or nothing after eight years. They didn’t have the guts to come tell me they traded me.”
Olshey said he and Del Negro were in the lobby of the Clippers’ practice facility waiting for the players to return from the events to discuss the trade.
“Unfortunately in today’s social media it didn’t matter if they were home, on a bus, shootaround, out to dinner," Olshey said. "We would never get to them before other people got to them or it ended up on Twitter.”
Olshey also says the Clippers were hesitant about keeping the players updated on the status of the trade talks because the Los Angeles Lakers thought they had a deal to acquire Paul only to have NBA commissioner David Stern veto it. The Lakers and Houston Rockets then had to repair relationships with the players involved in the proposed trade. One of the reasons the Lakers said they traded Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks was because Odom was upset about being included in the Paul talks.
“Based on normal circumstances, the players have the right to be somewhat sensitive,” Olshey said. “But until it was absolutely consummated at the NBA level, why would we preemptively notify players they were traded? And on the off-chance the deal didn’t go through for some reason, we'd have to deal with the same fallout that Houston and the Lakers had to deal with.
“I’m completely empathetic on how the guys found out. Had it not been a community-relations day and they wouldn’t have been on the buses, they would have been at home and we would have been able to call all of them.”
Gordon missed four games with a bruised right knee after hitting the winning shot in the Hornets' season opener against the Phoenix Suns. He returned against the Philadelphia 76ers and says he's looking forward to being the face of the franchise – which wasn't the case with the Clippers, who are building around All-Star forward Blake Griffin.
“When I was with the Clippers I was kind of behind the scenes, behind Blake, but I was also contributing almost just as good as he is," said Gordon, who averaged 22.3 points last season. “He gets all the spectacular credit. But now here there is more responsibility towards me.”
Gordon says he’s already grown fond of Hornets general manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams, and Gordon's agent has had discussions with New Orleans officials about a possible contract extension. The two sides have until Jan. 25 to work out a deal or Gordon will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. The Indiana Pacers have expressed interest in Gordon in the past, a league source said.
Kaman also has reason to be happy with the trade. He received a $1.8 million bonus in the deal because of a trade kicker in his contract and said he’s much happier playing for the Hornets.
“They’re very professional,” Kaman said. “I’m not used to that. No, serious. It was an adjustment. After eight years [with the Clippers], I didn’t know it could be like this. I wasn’t used to it. The way they handle business … they’re up front with you and they tell you what’s going on and what’s going to happen.”
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