The past few years could've looked quite a bit different for the Los Angeles Lakers, if not for a fateful David Stern trade veto back in December of 2011.
The Lakers, you might recall, had a deal in place to acquire Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans), as part of a three-teamer involving the Houston Rockets. Stern was the NBA's commissioner at the time - and the league owned the Hornets at that point - so Stern, underwhelmed by the proposed return, stepped in to nix the deal for what he called "basketball reasons." The Lakers subsequently went in a different direction, acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, and what soon followed was the (ongoing) worst four-year stretch in the franchise's nearly 70-year history.
Stern has since been the target of much ire from Lakerland, but the former commissioner said there still would've been a Paul deal on the table if former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak hadn't been so eager to move on.
"(My decision) was only based on what was good for New Orleans, or what was not good for New Orleans. It had nothing to do with the Lakers at all," Stern said on the "Nunyo and Company" podcast earlier this month, as transcribed by Harrison Faigen of Silver Screen and Roll.
"And in fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kyle Lowry; and we had a trade lined up for (Lamar) Odom that would have gotten us a good first round draft pick. Not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchack at the time panicked, and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn't even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it - just about what was good for the then New Orleans Hornets."
Odom had become disgruntled after learning the Lakers intended to move him in the Paul deal, which is why Kupchak moved so quickly to trade him to the Mavericks after his carefully laid plans went awry. There's no telling whether this is just revisionist history on Stern's part, but if he's being genuine, it certainly seems like a little bit of patience could've gone a long way for the Lakers.