NEW ORLEANS (AP) - The Hornets have agreed in principle to deal Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers for guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice, people familiar with deal said.
Commissioner David Stern approved the trade on behalf of the league-owned team, people told The Associated Press on Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the NBA had not ratified the deal.
The 26-year-old Paul is a four-time All-Star who averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 assists last season, his sixth in the NBA. His move to the Clippers means he’ll now be able to make alley-oop lobs to a young star famous for dunking over a car. That would be forward Blake Griffin, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, his first in the NBA.
The Hornets, meanwhile, get a prolific young shooting guard in Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas Day and averaged 22.3 points last season. The 6-foot-9 Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie.
The 7-foot Kaman, 29, is an eight-year veteran who averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds last season, but played in only 32 games because of a left ankle injury.
ESPN, citing anonymous sources, first reported the trade, which also involves New Orleans sending two future second-round draft picks to the Clippers.
Paul, whom the Hornets drafted fourth overall in 2005, told New Orleans earlier this month that he was not going to sign an extension, and Hornets general manager Dell Demps has been trying to trade him since.
Demps came close to making a deal with the Los Angeles Lakers last Thursday which the Lakers would have sent Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to Houston, while the Rockets would have sent Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic, and a first-round draft choice to New Orleans.
Stern, however, told Demps to take that deal off the table because he thought the Hornets could get a better deal, both in terms of personnel and salary obligations, in exchange for their marquee player.
As time passed, the urgency to make a deal appeared to be growing, even though Demps insisted earlier Tuesday that the Hornets had no timeline and would not be rushed into a “rash decision.”
Still, Demps acknowledged that it was hard for the Hornets to pursue free agents and further build their roster while Paul’s status was in limbo. If trade talks had dragged out much longer, the Hornets could have gone into Friday night’s preseason opener at Memphis with little idea of what their roster would look like in their first regular season game at Phoenix on Dec. 26.
Other than Paul, the Hornets had only five returning veterans under contract: center Emeka Okafor, forward Trevor Ariza, point guard Jarrett Jack, swingman Quincy Pondexter and shooting guard Marco Belinelli.
The addition of Gordon, Aminu and Kaman give New Orleans desperately needed depth while opening the way for the franchise to further strengthen its roster through free agency.
Meanwhile, the Hornets also could look forward to an additional first-round draft choice next summer. The pick originally belonged to Minnesota, meaning it will be tied to where the Timberwolves finish in the standings this season.
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