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Chris Paul Trade: Lakers Deal Falls Apart, Clippers Re-Enter Picture

According to a report from ESPN tonight, the Los Angeles Lakers have pulled out of trade talks that would have attempted to restructure the original trade vetoed by the NBA that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to the Houston Rockets, and Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, and the New York Knicks' 2012 first round pick to New Orleans Hornets.

Throughout the day Saturday, the three teams trade proposals back and forth. At various points, the proposed changes to the original deal ranged from the extremely minimal (Lakers' 2nd round pick Derrick Caracter heading to the Hornets) to the less minimal (the Lakers pursuing an external first round pick to send the Hornets) to the potentially impactful (Houston sending one or multiple of Patrick Patterson, Chase Budinger, or Jordan Hill to New Orleans) to the outlandish (Los Angeles trading Pau Gasol to the Warriors and rerouting Stephen Curry to the Hornets). It's unclear which of the options was last to be on the table, though most reports indicated that the newly submitted deal to the NBA leaned towards minimal changes at best.

The Lakers eventually pulled the plug, opting to send Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks for a trade exception; Dallas had acquired this exception in the sign-and-trade of Tyson Chandler to New York mere hours earlier. It appears that Los Angeles will shift its attention towards Orlando's Dwight Howard now, although the trade of Odom doesn't put them in a better position to acquire the bloated deal of Hedo Turkoglu either.

Sam Amick reports that the Lakers pulled out of the deal because "the new price was too high." Considering the dearth of young talent on the Lakers, this could (almost) only imply that Andrew Bynum was part of the new iteration of the trade.

In the end, this could work out very well for the Hornets. The original Lakers trade would have been a poor long term deal for the Hornets; the players returning to New Orleans were all decently talented, and it's likely the Hornets would have challenged for a playoff spot this season. It seems paradoxical, but making the playoffs this year would be a terrible outcome. A Martin-Odom-Scola core would have no potential for growth whatsoever, and the Hornets would be missing out on the best and deepest draft class since 2004. In the NBA, being "moderately" good in a small market is the most damning of fates for a franchise; it precludes the opportunity for a superstar via the draft without ever providing a legitimate chance at being a contender either. The Hornets now happily avoid that future, even if 2011-2012 might be a less successful year in the win column.

Re-entering trade negotiations are the Los Angeles Clippers, expected to offer one of Eric Gordon or Minnesota's unprotected 2012 pick, in addition to the expiring deal of Chris Kaman (still only 29, for what it's worth) and possibly Al-Farouq Aminu or Eric Bledsoe. It's unclear whether the Warriors will also resume talks; the Hornets' top target in trade talks is Stephen Curry, but Golden State has made it clear they won't include him without a Paul extension, and Paul has made it clear he won't extend anywhere but New York or the Lakers.

Finally, there's speculation that the Boston Celtics, who are yet to finalize the deal for David West, could get back in the race and make a megadeal involving Paul and West and, presumably, Rajon Rondo, who has been dangled in all previous offers.

A big day today - one that could decide the future of this franchise.

Go Hornets.