Chris Paul to Lakers deal back from the dead. Maybe. But modified.

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A little more than 24 hours after the iron fist of David Stern crushed the Chris Paul to the Lakers trade because small market owners complained it was not good for the Hornets, we know four things.

1. Chris Paul is going to be traded. Sooner rather than later.

2. The Lakers’ and Hornets’ three-team deal is gaining momentum again in a modified form and could come to pass, still sending Paul to Los Angeles (although the Rockets may not be the third team in the final version).

3. Other teams and deals are getting a look at it as well.

4. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert and some other small-market owners probably won’t like whatever Hornets GM Dell Demps does anyway.

On Friday the three teams that had their old deal fall apart started looking at ways to sweeten the deal and make it more palatable to Stern. It was Stern wearing the hat of the Hornets owner — not commissioner — that killed the deal, he said in a statement.

“Since the NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets, final responsibility for significant management decisions lies with the Commissioner’s Office in consultation with team chairman Jac Sperling. All decisions are made on the basis of what is in the best interests of the Hornets. In the case of the trade proposal that was made to the Hornets for Chris Paul, we decided, free from the influence of other NBA owners, that the team was better served with Chris in a Hornets uniform than by the outcome of the terms of that trade.”

That is the company line. Do with it as you will.

What matters is the word that got back to those teams was that the Hornets had to get younger players and more picks in any deal for Paul. In the old deal, they would have gotten Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. While that is three solid starters and a backup point guard, they would all have had to been flipped for other parts to rebuild. Stern apparently wants less talent now and more building blocks.

There were multiple reports Friday tonight that the sides were making progress. David Aldridge at NBA.com summed up the mood and reports pretty well.

A source directly involved in the negotiations told Aldridge that progress had been made in a potential trade of Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers. However, the trade was not expected to be completed Friday and could have several more incarnations before being completed, if it is completed at all.

There is cautious optimism, but we are a ways from a deal.

Meanwhile, Demps said his is listening to teams that had lost out before, which likely includes Golden State, Boston and others. It is also possible that the Rockets could be moved out as the middle man and a team like the Indiana Pacers take their spot, to provide younger players and picks.

It may not have happened as Demps — and Lakers fans — originally envisioned. But Paul will be traded soon, and the Lakers still seem to be the most likely landing spot.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.