- Associated Press - Friday, December 9, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - David Stern had three deals to consider, all promising significant changes to the NBA.

A new collective bargaining agreement, saving owners more than $1 billion in player salary costs?

Definitely.

An expanded revenue sharing plan that would perhaps quadruple the money shared by teams?

Of course.

A trade that would send Chris Paul from the league-owned, small-market Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers?

Absolutely not.

Stern announced the ratification of the deal that ends the lockout, but shortly afterward the league had to deny reports that he was pressured by owners into rejecting a previously agreed upon trade that would have put Paul in the same backcourt as Kobe Bryant.

“It’s not true that the owners killed the deal, the deal was never discussed at the Board of Governors meeting and the league office declined to make the trade for basketball reasons,” league spokesman Mike Bass said.

But a letter from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to Stern clearly shows at least one owner objected to the deal.

“I just don’t see how we can allow this trade to happen,” Gilbert writes in the letter, which was obtained by Yahoo Sports and The New York Times.

He writes: “I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do” and asks for a vote of “the 29 owners of the Hornets.”

The Hornets have been owned by the NBA since last December, when the league bought the club from founder George Shinn.

So Paul stays in New Orleans _ for now _ but that does little to calm fans in small markets such as New Orleans and Orlando who worry about losing their superstars. In time, Stern said, the “tortured journey” of this 161-day lockout will have been worth it.

“We think it’s a very good deal, and it’s going to withstand the test of time,” he said.

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