Criticism of NBA pouring in Paul trade pouring in

By Brian Mahoney

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Dec. 9 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul, right, works out against Quincy Pondexter, left, during the first day of NBA basketball training camp in Westwego, La., Friday, Dec. 9, 2011.

Gerald Herbert, Associated Press

NEW YORK — NBA teams went back to work Friday, which for Chris Paul meant going back to New Orleans.

And there was disbelief and anger around the league — and a commitment to try again to find him a new home.

Commissioner David Stern killed the Hornets' first attempt at moving their All-Star point guard, but New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is working to put together a new deal.

"Yes. People are still calling," Demps said. "People are still calling and we're calling people, so we're confident we can get a deal."

Paul could have been in Los Angeles on Friday, ready to pair up with Kobe Bryant as the next star in Hollywood. That fell apart Thursday when the league, which owns the Hornets, rejected a three-team trade the club had agreed to for "basketball reasons," denying the decision came about because of pressure on Stern from irate owners.

And instead of the immediate boost the league craved coming out the lockout with free agency and training camps opening, it found itself with another public relations disaster.

"That's the first thing I thought. We just got done arguing for four or five months and everyone just wants to see basketball and now this. Huge controversy, again with NBA owners," said Minnesota forward Anthony Tolliver, the Timberwolves' player representative. "I just hope it doesn't damage everybody and hope it doesn't affect everybody in the whole league, which I think it possibly could. This is a really big deal because it's everywhere, all over ESPN, all over every website, CNN, everything. It's a really big deal."

The 26-year-old Paul was seen walking into New Orleans' training facility Friday wearing a black Hornets practice jersey but did not speak to the media.

"Being a really good friend of mine, like a brother to me, I'm frustrated for him," LeBron James said after the Heat's first practice. "I wish him the best. I know where his heart is and what he wants to do with his career. I support him and hopefully things get resolved, fast, for him and his family."

Though he nixed the deal, Stern has reason for wanting the same teams to work something out. If not, and another team eventually makes a trade that is approved, it will be difficult to shake the perception that the league was dictating where it wanted Paul to go.

Demps said the team has resumed talks for Paul — to any team — and that he has been given autonomy to make another trade, one he hopes will keep the Hornets competitive now and create a promising future.

"We want to build the team where they're good, they compete at the highest level and also have an opportunity for the future," he said. "We don't want to just put everything into this year. We want to be a good team that competes at the highest level, and we also want to start a developmental program."

Maybe the other owners will like the next trade more.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told a radio station Friday that the league went through the lockout to prevent this very type of deal in which small-market teams lose their superstars. And a letter from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to Stern clearly showed he, too, objected to the deal.

"I just don't see how we can allow this trade to happen," Gilbert wrote in the letter, which was obtained by Yahoo Sports and The New York Times.

He added: "I know the vast majority of owners feel the same way that I do."

Utah Jazz president Randy Rigby said owners had no say in vetoing the trade, but applauded the move.

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