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Clippers back off Chris Paul trade, win rights to Chauncey Billups

Clippers pull out of proposed deal with Hornets for Chris Paul, one of NBA's top point guards, because they felt price was too high. But they win waiver auction for Billups, who was let go by Knicks.

December 12, 2011|By Broderick Turner
  • Lakers point guard Derek Fisher tries to stop then Nuggets point guard Chauncey Billups on a drive.
Lakers point guard Derek Fisher tries to stop then Nuggets point guard Chauncey… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

The first big news the Clippers made Monday was when they pulled out of a proposed deal to acquire All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets.

Then in the afternoon the Clippers won the waiver auction to get veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, and re-signed center DeAndre Jordan by matching the Golden State Warriors' four-year, $43.2-million contract offer.

"I don't know if there's anybody on the planet that doesn't think they would need Chris Paul if they had an opportunity to acquire him," said Neil Olshey, the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations, who, along with Coach Vinny Del Negro and team President Andy Roeser, had been working on all three deals since Sunday night.

"I think [the Hornets] feel they made a fair proposal," Olshey said. "We passed on it and we've moved on with our business. We're going forward with this group of players. And it just got better by keeping DeAndre and adding Chauncey."

The Clippers wouldn't say what package of players and/or draft picks the Hornets wanted for Paul but said that the asking price was too high.

However, the Clippers never were going to trade shooting guard Eric Gordon, one of the players the Hornets badly wanted in the deal.

Various reports said the Clippers would have sent center Chris Kaman, backup guard Eric Bledsoe, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick they got from the Minnesota Timberwolves to New Orleans for Paul. Some reports said the Hornets also wanted the Clippers to sign Jordan and make him part of the package instead of Kaman.

Paul, 26, a four-time All-Star who will make $16.3 million this season, had informed the Clippers that he would have exercised his player option for the 2012-13 season if he had been traded, ensuring that they would have him for at least two seasons.

But the more the Clippers considered the idea of perhaps losing Gordon, of losing Kaman's expiring $12.7-million contract, which would limit their salary-cap space to sign players next summer, and of giving up a probable lottery pick in a strong draft, the more they felt it was best to back away from the Paul deal.

"I can just tell you the aggregated compensation that we were going to have to convey to them was just too much," Olshey said. "And it was just going to hamstring our franchise in the long term."

The New York Knicks waived Billups, 35, over the weekend under the NBA's new amnesty provision. The Clippers won the bidding process by offering a little more than $2 million for Billups, which means the Knicks are on the hook for the rest of his $14.2 million salary this season, or about $12.2 million.

Billups had threatened to retire if he was picked up by a team for which he didn't want to play.

But the NBA sent a memo to teams saying the league had warned Billups and his agent, Andy Miller, that if he didn't report to the team that selected him he would be in breach of his contract, according to several team executives who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The Clippers are aware of Billups' feelings and have been in contact with him.

"We'll work through the issues and work through the problems and make [Billups] as comfortable as possible," Del Negro said. "He's a pro and he always has been."

The Clippers also needed a backup point guard because Bledsoe will be out until late January while he recovers from right knee surgery.

Meanwhile, Jordan, 23, who earned $854,389 last season, will make $10.4 million this season, $10.5 million in 2012-13, $10.9 million in 2013-14 and $11.4 million in 2014-15.

He's expected to be at practice Tuesday.

Jordan 23, averaged 7.1 points and 7.2 rebounds last season for the Clippers, but he started 66 games and his defense and dunking skills became more apparent as the season progressed.

"He brings you an athletic, big, dynamic [center] that we're fortunate to have," Del Negro said. "People have a tendency to look at the contract more so than really the intangibles that guys like DeAndre can bring."

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