Chris Paul talk swirls around Clips
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin would welcome point guard Chris Paul to the Clippers if his team was finally able to come to an NBA-approved agreement with the New Orleans Hornets on a blockbuster trade for the four-time All-Star.
But, either way, he's fine with it, Griffin said Tuesday at the Clippers' annual media day. Asked multiple times for his thoughts on the team's pursuit of Paul, Griffin generally said the same thing, repeating that he'd enjoy counting Paul as one of his teammates but would also enjoy entering into the season as is.
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"Obviously we'd love to have him," the Clippers' third-year forward said. "But if it doesn't work out, everybody on this team knows that we're ready to roll with this team.
"I love our team right now and I think this team can get it done. But this free-agency period, or whatever you want to call it, has been crazy, and it seems like every day something new is happening."
As currently constructed, the Clippers' 2011-2012 starting lineup -- debuting in just 12 days -- will probably include veteran point guard Chauncey Billups, fourth-year scorer Eric Gordon, small forward Caron Butler, Griffin and the recently re-signed DeAndre Jordan at center. Mo Williams, Randy Foye, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ryan Gomes and Chris Kaman would come off the bench, with point guard Eric Bledsoe joining the rotation upon his expected return from knee surgery in late January.
A deal for Paul would cut up that core significantly. All versions of the discussed trade made public have included Aminu and Kaman, and it's likely that either Gordon or Bledsoe would be included in a finalized deal -- if not both, as well as future first-rounders to boot. Plus, if the Clippers did indeed acquire Paul, it appears likely they would explore trading Williams, another veteran point guard who expressed some reluctance at coming off the bench at media day Tuesday.
Paul, of course, has been vigorously shopped by the league-owned Hornets over the last couple of weeks. ESPN.com has reported that the team has twice agreed to multiplayer trade offers, only to see the league turn them down on both occasions.
Butler, who signed with a three-year deal to join the Clippers last week, compared Paul's situation to that of the five-month NBA lockout.
"It was one of those situations that it was on and then it was off and then it was revisited," Butler said Tuesday. "So we'll see what happens."
Speaking to the media, Clippers general manager Neil Olshey indicated Tuesday that the team is no longer discussing the Paul trade with the Hornets, but he refused to rule it out long-term. He said, as he often has this offseason, that there are certain players in the league that force you to always listen when they are being offered.
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He clearly counts Paul as one of those players. But both Olshey and team president Andy Roeser said the team is at least temporarily done with making large-scale moves, after signing Butler, bringing in Billups off of waivers Monday and matching Jordan's four-year offer sheet from the Golden State Warriors.
"We think we've got a product on the floor right now that's giving a lot of people in the Western Conference pause," Olshey said. "We're as big and as deep as any team in the league right now. We think we're a threat already."
However, league officials representing the Hornets and Clippers continued discussions into Tuesday night on a Paul trade, sources briefed on the talks told ESPN.com's Marc Stein.
But the sides have yet to find a framework that satisfies both, sources said, with the NBA not relenting on its desire to acquire the Clippers' top five available trade assets in return for Paul, who would invoke the 2012-13 option in his contract as part of any trade between the teams to ensure the Clippers would have him for at least two seasons.
"They're still asking for everyone," said one source with knowledge of the Clippers' thinking.
Sources said one of the wrinkles added to the deal in Tuesday's talks involved the inclusion of Williams going to the Hornets in exchange for swingman Trevor Ariza, an L.A. native. But the Clippers, feeling even stronger about their position after acquiring Billups on Monday on a waiver claim, are insisting that the league has to scale back its demands if it wants a trade, believing that they're the only reasonable trade suitor in circulation for Paul.
The Lakers, however, also continue to loom as a potential destination, sources told Stein, despite their apparent exit from the Paul Sweepstakes on Saturday when they walked away from the table after multiple attempts at completing a three-team trade with the Hornets and Houston Rockets for Paul and then agreed to trade New Orleans-bound Lamar Odom to the Dallas Mavericks instead.
Meanwhile, Jordan's deal, in particular, pleased Griffin, as the two have become close friends over their two shared years in L.A. As frontcourt mates last season, the young duo thrived above the rim for the Clippers.
"I'm very happy," Griffin said. "It's good to see him back. He's a huge part of this team, not only defensively but offensively also."
The dollar value of the final contract Jordan inked -- $43 million -- was higher than anticipated. But many expected that the Clippers would match it no matter what Jordan was offered because of his relationship with Griffin.
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"It was more of a friendship thing for me," Griffin said of Jordan's re-signing. "I wanted to see him get what he deserves, and I think he did and he thinks he did too."
"We're close. We're as close as we've ever been, and obviously I was talking to him throughout this whole process."
Pedro Moura is a staff reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Information from ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.