Chris Paul trade: Can the Clippers become LA's team?

Chris Paul, the coveted free agent point guard, could turn the lowly Clippers into a serious NBA contender. The addition of Chris Paul to the team is attracting other marquee players.

Lucyu Nicholson/Reuters/File
In this file photo, Chris Paul takes a breather during a playoff game against the Lakers in Los Angeles. The Hornets have agreed to send Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers, less than a week after the NBA vetoed a deal that would've seen Paul go to the Lakers.

Everybody’s talking basketball in Los Angeles, but for perhaps the first time ever, it’s not about the Lakers.

That’s because the lowly Clippers, the perennial stepchild of the city’s basketball scene, have locked up a trade for Chris Paul, the most highly coveted free agent point guard of the NBA offseason.

Paul wasn’t a bargain: The Clippers acquired him, along with two second-round draft picks, from the New Orleans Hornets in exchange for guard Eric Gordon, forward Al-Fariq Aminu, and Minnesota’s 2012 unprotected first-round draft pick.

But by most accounts, it was worth it. NBA experts are already predicting that Paul’s addition to the Clippers will catapult the franchise, which has been embarrassingly inept for most of its existence, into a title contender with ticket sales to compete with its local rival.

The change would be welcome: Throughout their 40-year history, the Clippers have been the NBA’s resident joke. The franchise has only had six winning seasons in its entire existence, and only two since moving to Los Angeles from San Diego in 1984. The oldest NBA team never to have appeared in the league finals, the Clippers haven’t made it past the first round of playoffs since 1976, when they were the Buffalo Braves. To make matters worse, they share the Staples Center with the Lakers, a franchise that boasts 16 NBA titles, 16 Hall of Famers, and a fan base littered with A-list celebrities.

But this season, roles may be reversed. Paul, a sixth season player who has established himself as one of the best point guards the league has ever seen, will be joining up with Blake Griffin, the power forward who was a first overall draft pick for the Clippers in 2009. In his first season, Griffin was a human highlight reel, averaging 22.5 points per game, winning the league’s Slam Dunk Contest, and becoming the first man unanimously voted Rookie of the Year in over two decades. Griffin alone made the Clippers worth watching. But Griffin and Paul, along with guard Chauncey Billups, forward Caron Butler, and center DeAndre Jordan, will lay the groundwork for them to become championship contenders. Adding to the intrigue is that the Lakers nearly had Paul: Last week, NBA commissioner David Stern blocked a deal that would have sent him there, saying that the agreement was unfair to the small-market Hornets.

In rounding out their roster, the Clippers have a better chance of making Blake Griffin a permanent Clipper and attracting even more marquee players to the organization. That’s great news for the team, in terms of both basketball and business.  As of this morning, season ticket packages for the Clippers were sold out, and CNBC is reported that the average price for an individual ticket has risen from $268.32 to $303.88 since 7:45 this morning. That’s a $35.56 increase in a matter of hours.

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