On December 8, 2011, the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Pelicans agreed to a trade that would send Chris Paul to the Lakers, where he and Kobe Bryant would form the NBA’s most formidable backcourt and compete for championships for years to come.
Then, 45 minutes later, the trade was vetoed by David Stern — the league commissioner and the Pelicans’ team owner in 2011 — for, uh, “basketball reasons.” To this day, it’s viewed as one of the biggest “what ifs?” in Lakers history.
Paul gave basketball fans some insight on what that hour was like for him in an interview with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles on the “Knuckleheads” podcast, and he revealed he spoke to Bryant during that small window of time:
“I was on the phone with my brother and my agent, and all that. We figuring out a plane to get to New Orleans to get us to LA ... let’s just say my agent clicked over, said hold on, clicked over and then he came back on and he was like, stuttering. And we was hot. We was hot. Me and Kobe had talked, you know what I’m saying? We had talked already and all that. And it was a lot. It was a lot.”
We’ll never know what what would have happened if Bryant and Paul teamed up, but it’s safe to say they would have kept the Lakers in contention longer than the duo of Steve Nash and Bryant did, if for no other reason than the fact that Paul was younger (and healthier) than Nash. It probably would have made them a more attractive free agent destination too, which would have helped the Lakers transition into post-Bryant era more smoothly.
But hey! — at least the Pelicans got a good package for Paul, which included Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and 2012 first-round pick, which they used to draft Austin Rivers. That’s so much better than a package built around Goran Dragic, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola and 2012 first-round pick from the Knicks!
And I’m mad again.