For any Los Angeles Lakers fans who have only begun watching the team after their rejected trade for Chris Paul known only as “The Veto,” first of all I’m sorry. You’ve had to watch some terrible basketball.
As a refresher, the Lakers agreed in principle to a three-team trade with the New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets that would’ve allowed Los Angeles to dump salary while ending up with Chris Paul in possibly the biggest trade heist of all-time.
That was not to be, however, with then-NBA Commissioner David Stern stepping in and infamously vetoing the trade for “basketball reasons” (yes, that’s an actual quote).
Since that fateful day, Stern has said many times he rejected the trade in his capacity as acting owner of the Hornets (the NBA owned the team at the time), not as commisioner, but during an appearance on the “Nunyo and Company” podcast, Stern revealed some new information: The Lakers still could have potentially completed a deal for Paul (emphasis mine).
“(My decision) was only based on what was good for New Orleans, or what was not good for New Orleans. It had nothing to do with the Lakers at all. And in fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kyle Lowry; and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first round draft pick. Not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchack at the time panicked, and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then New Orleans Hornets.
It’s important to note here that this is just Stern’s view/statement on what happened, and the Kupchak wasn’t given a chance to tell his side of the story. The former Lakers general manager might have seen the situation differently, or seen variables Stern is either unaware of or ignoring.
That being said, if Kupchak really did trade Odom to Dallas with a Paul deal potentially still on the table, it’s impossible to argue that decision didn’t hurt the Lakers. The team only received a trade exception and a top-20 protected first-round pick in exchange for Odom, so it’s not like they had some massive haul on the table that couldn’t wait.
It’s understandable if Kupchak felt pressure to trade Odom in the wake of his reaction nearly being traded for Paul, but if the deal for Paul was still somewhat on the table like Stern says it was, he should have been more patient.
We’ll likely never know for sure what exactly happened in some of the weirdest and most controversial trade talks in NBA history, but it seems like new details about “The Veto” won’t stop trickling out anytime soon.
Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.