LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Chris Paul was traded from the Los Angeles Clippers to the Houston Rockets on Wednesday (June 28) in the first major NBA talent move of the off-season with free agency looming on Saturday.
The 32-year-old point guard, who helped the United States win Olympic gold in 2008 at Beijing and 2012 at London, joins shooting guard James Harden in what might be the NBA’s most dynamic backcourt next season.
In exchange, the Rockets sent to the Clippers forward Sam Dekker, guards Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams plus a 2018 first-round NBA Draft pick, according to reports by the Houston Chronicle and ESPN.
“It’s tough to say goodbye but I will always have great pride and love for the chance to be a part of Red Nation!” Beverley tweeted in confirming the deal.
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Las Vegas oddsmakers trimmed the Rockets’ odds of winning next year’s NBA crown from 30-1 to 15-1 after the move was revealed while dropping the Clippers’ chances from 40-1 to 100-1.
Paul agreed to opt in for the final year of his US$24.2 million (S$33.5 million) contract, allowing the Clippers to make a sign-and-trade deal with the Rockets, Yahoo Sports reported. Paul faced a Wednesday deadline to opt out of the final year of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent.
Paul could have signed a new deal with the Clippers at US$34 million a year had he opted out, but can now sign a five-year, US$205 million maximum extension with the Rockets under NBA salary cap rules.
“When friends of mine are happy then I’m equally as happy for them. Congrats to my brother CP3 on choosing his own direction,” tweeted Chicago guard Dwyane Wade.
Paul and Harden reportedly discussed the possibility of a partnership at length and hope to ignite the Rockets, who went 55-27 last season but lost to San Antonio in the second round of the NBA playoffs.
The Rockets, who won NBA crowns in 1994 and 1995, have not suffered a losing season since 2005-06 but have reached the Western Conference final only once in 20 years, losing that to eventual champion Golden State in 2015.
Paul, obtained by the Clippers in a 2011 trade with New Orleans, is a nine-time All-Star who spent six seasons with each club and has averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists and 2.3 steals over 834 NBA games.
While players and teams can begin free agency talks on Saturday, no deals can be signed until July 6.