GETPlugged: Chris Paul traded to the L.A. Clippers

Two seasons ago, a group of Los Angeles Clippers fans rallied outside the Staples Center in hopes of their team acquiring then-free agent LeBron James.

“What do we want? LeBron James,” they chanted before a Los Angeles Lakers playoff game. “When do we want him? Right now.”

Wednesday night, the Clippers finally one-upped their Staples Center rival and got the next best thing: Chris Paul

Read full article after the jumpTwo people with knowledge of the deal between the Clippers and New Orleans Hornets but could not speak about it publicly said the Clippers will send shooting guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and their unprotected 2012 draft pick (acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves), which could become the No. 1 overall selection.

The Clippers initially backed off including Gordon (22.3 points a game) and the unprotected draft pick in the deal earlier in the week. But with the Lakers possibly re-entering the picture to court Paul, the Clippers relented.

A three-team deal that would have sent Paul to the Lakers was rejected last week by the NBA, which operates the Hornets until a buyer can be found to keep the team in New Orleans.

Paul, who will make $16.3 million this season, is expected to sign an extension with the Clippers, who would own his Bird rights.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, Paul could sign a five-year extension with the Clippers for $100.2 million. If Paul waited to become a free agent at the end of the 2011-12 season and left the Hornets then, the maximum he could command from another team would’ve been $74 million for four years.

Last week, the NBA rejected Paul being traded to the Lakers because in return they would’ve received Lamar Odom and Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and Luis Scola from the Houston Rockets. Most of those pieces were deemed too old or their contracts too big. The primary concern, according to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban who is 1/29th owner of the Hornets, was that the trade wouldn’t have made the franchise more attractive to a prospective buyer.

Scola, 31, has three guaranteed years left on his deal worth more than $9 million a season; Martin, 28, is owed $24 million over two years; and Odom, 32, has one year remaining at $8.9 million. Odom eventually ended up with the Mavericks.

In this trade, the Hornets get the youth the NBA wanted with Gordon, 22, who is still on his rookie-scale contract and will make $3.8 million this season, and Aminu, 21, who will make $2.7 million. Kaman, 29, is a 7-footer who gives the Hornets needed size. He’ll have his new team’s biggest contract at $12.7 million, but this is the last year of his deal.

Both teams come out of this trade looking drastically different. The Hornets have lost their two best players in All-Stars Paul and free agent power forward David West (Indiana Pacers), from a team that made the playoffs last season at 46-36 and pushed the Lakers to six games in their first-round Western Conference series.

The Clippers went 32-50 and have qualified for the postseason twice since the 1993-94 season. But they finally have another superstar to play with power forward Blake Griffin, the reigning rookie of the year.

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