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The Los Angeles Clippers have been aggressive in their pursuit of New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul, but their initial offer to Hornets general manager Dell Demps did not include either shooting guard Eric Gordon or restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions.
The Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics have been the most aggressive teams pursuing Paul, but so far the Clippers have been the least desperate to land him because they believe they are set up to win in the short and long term if they can re-sign Jordan, extend Gordon this year and Blake Griffin next year and upgrade at the small forward position either through free agency or with Minnesota's unprotected first round pick in 2012.
The Clippers are reluctant to part with either Gordon or Jordan in any trade for Paul, the source said, because Paul hasn't given any assurances he will re-sign with them following the 2011-12 season and owner Donald Sterling is still deeply stung from the way forward Elton Brand burned the Clippers in 2008 by signing with the Philadelphia 76ers.
The franchise has just begun to dig itself out of the crater Brand's unexpected defection left behind. Point guard Baron Davis, whom Brand recruited to join him in L.A., was shipped off to Cleveland last February at great cost, the Clippers 2011 first-round pick that ended up as the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Without assurances that Paul will commit to the franchise long term, the Clippers are reluctant to break up their core group of young players or future draft picks they feel are essential to convincing Griffin to sign an extension with them next summer.
Paul has let it be known that signing free-agent center Tyson Chandler would increase his chances of re-signing with any team that trades for him, the source said, but at this point the Clippers have no intention of pursuing Chandler because is expected to command a deal of between $12-15 million per season, significantly more than Jordan, whom they are optimistic they can re-sign for a five-year deal between $7-9 million per year.
The Clippers' initial offer to New Orleans did include future draft picks, the source said. They also indicated they would be willing to absorb the contracts of players like small forward Trevor Ariza.
While Gordon and Jordan are obviously the Clippers' most desirable trade assets, the team also has former first-round picks Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu, the expiring contract of center Chris Kaman and Minnesota's unprotected first-round pick in 2012.
Paul has been the Clippers primary trade target. While the team also has interest in Orlando's Dwight Howard, it has yet to engage any substantive discussions with the Magic, the source said. Still, at this point Paul is the Clippers' primary target because his game would mesh better with Griffin and Gordon than Howard.
No trades can be completed until a new collective bargaining agreement is passed by the players association and the owners.Ramona Shelburne is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.