Jim Buss over failed Chris Paul deal
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers' season was almost derailed before it began after the Chris Paul trade fell through on the eve of training camp. Now that the Lakers made it through the regular season as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the team has officially moved on from the debacle of a deal.
"I'm going to put it in the books, just like the season. I'm over it," Lakers executive vice president of player personnel Jim Buss told 710 ESPN's "Mason & Ireland Show" on Friday. "Watching Pau Gasol play, he's just a work of art and there's half of me that says that's fantastic that we still have Pau Gasol. Then of course you watch a Clipper game and you see how great Chris Paul is, too. To me, I'm going to just close the book on it. I think the season went great, we won the (Pacific) Division. With all the changes that we've made, I think we've come out smelling pretty good."
After the Lakers' attempt to acquire Paul fell through, the Los Angeles Clippers, their Staples Center cohabitants, swung a deal to bring Paul to L.A. wearing red, white and blue instead of purple and gold.
The fallout from the abandoned deal was palpable, as not only did the Lakers have to deal with their targeted player in Paul playing for the other NBA team in town, but Lamar Odom requested a trade after hearing he was being dangled as a piece.
Later in the season, the trade speculation seemed to be weighing on Gasol so much that Kobe Bryant came to Gasol's defense, calling out management in a postgame rant and demanding that the team make a decision on Gasol's future rather than leaving him twisting in the wind.
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Paul averaged 19.8 points and 9.1 assists and is considered an MVP candidate after helping the Clippers qualify for the postseason for the first time since 2006. However, Gasol was no slouch either, averaging 17.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, and upped those numbers to 19.5, 10.2 and 5.0 in April as the Lakers readied themselves for the postseason.
Not only did the Lakers hold on to Gasol, keeping their twin towers intact with Andrew Bynum, they also managed to acquire a young point guard in Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline. While Sessions is no Paul, he did average 12.7 points and 6.2 assists in 23 games for the Lakers, while shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 48.6 percent on 3-pointers.
The Lakers finished 41-25, one game better than the Clippers (40-26), and won the Pacific over the Clippers, beating Paul's team in two out of their three regular-season matchups in the process. The Clippers open up the playoffs Sunday on the road as the No. 5 seed against the No. 4 Memphis Grizzlies. The Lakers host the No. 6-seeded Denver Nuggets at Staples Center earlier in the day.
NBA commissioner David Stern also appeared on the "Mason & Ireland Show" on Friday and maintained that he had no regrets turning down the proposed three-team deal between the Lakers, New Orleans Hornets and Houston Rockets and eventually settling on the deal that sent Paul to the Clippers for a package that included Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's 2012 first-round draft pick.
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"Nothing turned me off, we just felt that we could get a better deal for the future of New Orleans, and we did," Stern told 710 ESPN.
Stern also reiterated his previous public statements that the Lakers' trade to acquire Paul was never a done deal in the first place.
"The biggest problem for me was people saying that I vetoed the deal as commissioner. I didn't," Stern said. "We didn't make the deal because I, as the owner's representative responsible for the final decision on ownership issues of the New Orleans Hornets, said no. That's all."
The Lakers sound ready to leave the past in the past -- no matter what the true details are -- and focus on the future.
"I still think this team has just a tremendous chance to find its stride in the playoffs and win the whole thing," Buss said. "I know if I was an opposing team I sure wouldn't want to face this team."