EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Kobe Bryant respects Chris Paul, and he's impressed the Los Angeles Clippers landed one of the NBA's best point guards. Just don't expect Bryant to fall in line with the suddenly popular belief that his Los Angeles Lakers are now looking up at their crosstown rivals.
“Power shift?" Bryant said, refusing to even consider the notion. "It’s good talk. It’s good talk. It’s good talk. But the truth is … it’s good conversation."
The Clippers went from punch line to potential contender overnight after acquiring Paul from the NBA Hornets. With Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin, former Finals MVP Chauncey Billups, veteran forward Caron Butler and promising young center DeAndre Jordan, Paul will be surrounded by a talented core.
Paul, however, easily could have been Bryant's teammate.
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The Lakers agreed to a three-team trade with the Hornets and Houston Rockets to acquire Paul while giving up Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom, who was later traded to the Dallas Mavericks. NBA commissioner David Stern blocked the trade for "basketball reasons," then demanded the Hornets receive young players and more draft picks in any trade for Paul.
“It’s part of the business,” Bryant said. “The Lakers tried to make a move to get a player here who could carry them on to the next 10 years after I retire. But the other owners weren’t with it. Simple as that."
Bryant and Paul were teammates on the gold-medal Olympic team. While Paul is playing for the other team in Los Angeles, Bryant is happy Paul was able to get his wish and move from the Hornets.
"It would have been a waste of his talent to keep him there captive," Bryant said. "They were holding him captive. But to let him go where he wanted to go, playing with another great player where he can showcase his skills and be competitive, I’m happy for him.”
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