The expectation was that after the Los Angeles Lakers pulled out of restructuring the original Lakers-Rockets-Hornets vetoed trade, teams around the league would lowball Dell Demps and the Hornets and acquire Chris Paul for pieces far less valuable than New Orleans was originally receiving. Potential game changer on the horizon though, via ESPN's Marc Stein:
If he can't land with the Los Angeles Lakers or New York Knicks, Chris Paul's preference is to be traded by the league-owned New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers to play alongside Blake Griffin, according to sources close to the situation.
That's huge. You'll recall that the reason the Clips (and Warriors) were originally hesitant to trade for Paul was that he refused to commit to them long term. Now that both the Knicks (via the signing of Chandler) and Lakers (via their upcoming chase of Dwight Howard) have become significantly less likely to pursue him in the summer of 2011-2012, Paul's options have dwindled considerably. He can go to the Clippers via a trade now and still make maximum money, or he can wait it out and see if somebody like the Dallas Mavericks want to offer him a smaller max in the summer. The choice is relatively clear. And if Paul does agree to opt into the '12 season with the Clippers, something we could see happen in the next couple of days?
The Clippers' offer will reportedly include Gordon or the Minnesota unprotected pick right now (the Hornets' second most desired target, after Stephen Curry) and if the Hornets can play Boston and Golden State's continued interest against them, receiving two out of three of the Clippers' pick, the Minnesota pick, and Eric Gordon doesn't seem ridiculous.
There's still a ways to go, but the Hornets becoming nicely involved in the 2012 draft and picking up an outstanding piece for the future is suddenly a realistic possibility. If it happens? We have Stern's "basketball reasons" veto to thank.
UPDATE: Ric Bucher is reporting he's told Paul will opt into the 2013 season with the Clippers. Big, big news.