Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — Chris Paul is headed to Los Angeles for real this time — to the Clippers, not the Lakers.
The Hornets have traded Paul to the Clippers for guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Farouq Aminu, center Chris Kaman and a first-round draft choice.
The deal required the approval of NBA Commissioner David Stern because the Hornets are owned by the league.
For Paul, the trade means no more lame-duck practices — and ducking questions — in New Orleans.
It also ended a tortured week in which the Hornets' season sat in limbo while the NBA took a public relations beating over everything from potential conflicts of interest, to retarding the Hornets' pursuit of free agents, to disrespecting the New Orleans fan base.
"I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans and that was my job," Stern said. "You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasn't a lot of fun, but I don't get paid to have fun."
Stern said he never allowed other owners' opinions or considerations of large and small markets to determine where Paul, one of the NBA's biggest stars, would end up. He said his only focus was on getting the best deal for the Hornets.
The Hornets at last have a measure of certainty about the roster they'll have when the regular season begins in less than two weeks.
Paul, already a star with international appeal, gets to play in one of the NBA's biggest markets, even if his new team plays in the shadow of the Lakers. That's the club Paul was almost traded to last week, only to have Stern nix the deal and unleash a torrent of bad publicity on his league just as it was trying to generate good will following a nearly five-month labor dispute that has already caused a shortening of the season.
Then again, maybe there is no such thing as bad publicity, or as Stern called it, "a frenzy." Even with the NFL's Saints on a five-game winning streak and wrapping up a playoff spot, the Hornets and Paul ordeal were the talk of New Orleans for a change.
"Our sole focus was and will remain, until we sell this team, hopefully which will be in first half of 2012, how best to maintain the Hornets, make them as attractive and a competitive as we can and ensure we have a buyer who can keep them in New Orleans," Stern said.
Stern said the team is in negotiations with several potential ownership groups, who, if all goes to plan, will have to accept a new long-term lease in the state-owned New Orleans Arena in order to buy the team.
"The future of the Hornets in New Orleans is brighter than it's ever been," Stern said.
Meanwhile, the Clippers have plenty of reason for optimism themselves.
The 26-year-old Paul is a four-time All-Star who averaged 18.7 points and 9.8 assists last season, his sixth in the NBA. His move to the Clippers means he'll now be able to make alley-oop lobs to a young star famous for dunking over a car. That would be forward Blake Griffin, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds last season, his first as a pro.
The Hornets, meanwhile, get a prolific young shooting guard in Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas Day and averaged 22.3 points last season. The 6-foot-9 Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie.
The 7-foot Kaman, 29, is an eight-year veteran who averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds last season, but played in only 32 games because of a left ankle injury.
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