In the four days since Commissioner vetoed a three-way deal that would have sent Paul to the from the , there have been two sets of talks. They have involved 4 teams, at least 11 players, and the vice presidents Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin, who are essentially acting as general managers for the Hornets, a team owned by the league.
The outcome: No deals yet. Paul remains in the Hornets’ training camp.
That leaves Stern, in a dual role as commissioner and de facto New Orleans owner, obliged to keep his staff — now effectively the Hornets’ staff — looking for a deal as Paul’s free-agent clock ticks.
The unusual situation started when the league took over the Hornets last December, buying out the distressed owner George Shinn.
At the time, Phil Jackson, then the coach of the Lakers, and a longtime critic of the league office, raised the issue, noting Paul’s impending free agency.
“When Chris says he has to be traded, how’s that going to go?” Jackson asked. “Someone’s going to have to make a very nonjudgmental decision that’s not going to irritate anyone else in the league.”
The league took over effective control in these new talks, and Hornets General Manager Dell Demps, who made the doomed deal with the Lakers, has been reduced to passing proposals back and forth between the Clippers and N.B.A. officials.
The Clippers were ready to give up their star guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected No. 1 pick in the June draft.
But at the end of negotiations between the Clippers and the N.B.A. officials, it seemed the Clippers would also have to give up two more young players, Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu. To the league’s surprise, Los Angeles would not part with Bledsoe.
Instead, the Clippers claimed the former Knick Chauncey Billups off waivers, perhaps in anticipation of ultimately trading a point guard or two.
Adding to the whirlwind of nonactivity, the , who have said they would take offers accommodating Dwight Howard’s demand to be traded, went back to saying they will do all they can to keep him.
“We have to continue to do what’s right for this organization to win a championship, and the first piece of that is keeping Dwight,” the Magic chief executive, Alex Martins, said at the team’s practice site in Orlando.
“And we’re doing everything we can to ensure that we do that. Our fans need to make sure that we show him the love.”
Howard went back to his “I love Orlando” mantra, however qualified.
“I love this city and there’s no place I’d rather be than Orlando,” he said. “I just want to make sure that we have the right things here so we can win a championship. And I’m all about change. If you’re willing to change and willing do what it takes to win, then you’ve got me.
“You only get one time around the track. There’s no reset button. You don’t want to miss out on any opportunity to win. You’ve got to do what it takes to win.”
Howard and Paul have spurned extension offers, alerting the Hornets and the Magic to the risk of being left with nothing if they let their stars walk away next summer.
Paul has given the Hornets three teams he is willing to go to.
¶ The , his original favorite, no longer have the maximum slot they were expecting to have last season, when Paul joked about forming a new big three with Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony, in a toast at Anthony’s wedding.
¶ The Lakers, Paul’s second choice, made an offer, but were shot down by Stern on Thursday. They tried to rework the three-team deal with the Hornets and the Rockets, but suddenly dropped out. Talks between the Lakers and the Magic were brief and came to nothing.
¶ And the Clippers, No. 3 on Paul’s list, had their deal fall through Monday.
Everyone can start over from the beginning on Tuesday.
Howard Beck contributed reporting.