Rockets, Hornets stunned by Lakers dropping out of CP3 race

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After weeks of work that had a trade to send Chris Paul to the Lakers — a deal that was consummated once only to have David Stern crush it — the Lakers unexpectedly walked away from the deal Saturday.

Why? We’ll take a stab at that in a second.

But first, the Lakers move left the Rockets and Hornets shocked and with their plans for the future blown up, reports Ken Berger at CBSSports.com.

The Rockets, who were supposed to get Gasol in the various versions of the ill-fated, three-team Paul trade, were said to be disconsolate over the breakdown in the talks. League sources said Houston’s plan had been to acquire Gasol and follow it up by acquiring free-agent big man Nene with a four-year, $60-$64 million offer.

As disappointed as the Rockets and Lakers were, the Hornets’ coaching staff and front office were said to be in “collective shock,” according to a person in touch with key members of the team. The breakdown of the Paul trade sent the Hornets scrambling for another suitor for the All-Star point guard, who has made it clear he wants to be traded or will leave New Orleans as an unrestricted free agent after the season.

For the Rockets, it’s unclear if that bid would have been enough to land Nene, who reportedly has a $70 million offer from the Nets (although some sources dispute that figure). The Rockets would have been in the bidding and would have had an imposing front like of Gasol and Nene. But now, they have Luis Scola and Kevin Martin still.

For the Hornets, there are still suitors for CP3 but will they get a package as good as Odom, Scola and Martin (plus Goran Dragic and a pick)? The league said David Stern wanted younger players to rebuild, but those quality players could have been flipped for good young players in secondary trades. Just getting good young players is hard, teams don’t like to give them up. Besides, Chris Paul would re-sign with the Lakers so they would make that trade, but that may not be the case with the Clippers, Warriors or Celtics.

As for the Lakers and why they backed out? Here’s my guess.

Jim Buss, the guy running the team now and son of long time owner Jerry Buss, wants to make a splash and put his stamp on the franchise. That’s why the sharp move away from the triangle offense to Mike Brown in the coaching search. That’s why long-time staff perceived to be “Jackson people” were removed from the organization last summer.

Buss wanted Paul and Dwight Howard. He was greedy. And despite what Lakers fans (and L.A. sports talk radio hosts) think, that was never going to happen. If the original Chris Paul trade went through, the Lakers would not have had the pieces to get Howard in a trade. The price for Howard has always been to take on Hedo Turkoglu’s disastrous contract (without D-12 the Magic go into rebuilding mode and Turkoblu is an anchor on that). The Lakers would have had Chris Paul and could have offered Andrew Bynum, but they had no way to take back Turkoglu, too. They would have already surrendered Odom and Gasol.

With Howard pushing his way out in Orlando now, Buss got a picture of the true price of Howard, realized he needed Gasol to get him, and it came down to choosing Howard or Paul. He couldn’t have the dream of both. And the choice there is always Howard — great bigs are harder to come by. Howard is your bridge to the post-Kobe Bryant era.

So he pulled out. And left the Rockets and Hornets in limbo.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.