Former NBA commissioner David Stern, reflecting on a 2011 proposed Chris Paul trade that he vetoed when the league was the interim owner of the then-New Orleans Hornets, said it has stood the test of time and that New Orleans general manager Dell Demps is "lousy" and poised to lose star Pelicans center Anthony Davis.
Stern, speaking in an in-depth interview with Sports Illustrated, said he didn't do a good job of explaining his reasoning for the trade veto at the time.
"There was a trade that Dell Demps wanted us to approve, and I said heck no, but he had told Daryl Morey and Mitch Kupchak he had authority to do it, and he didn't," Stern said of the Houston Rockets' general manager and the former Los Angeles Lakers GM. "I said no. We just settled a lockout, and you want me to approve a basketball trade?"
Despite a wave of heavy reaction, Stern did not waver in his decision.
"[Demps] had agreed to [trade Paul to the Lakers for] Kevin Martin and Luis Scola or something, and I said we can do better than that," Stern said. "... And the next trade was [to the LA Clippers for] Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu and what we thought was a really great draft pick, the 10th pick, which turned out to be Austin Rivers. At least those three and someone else [center Chris Kaman].
"But Dell Demps is a lousy general manager, and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis," Stern said.
Davis, who has proved to be an MVP-caliber player the Pelicans could build their franchise around, is eligible to sign up to a five-year, $235 million extension next summer. Davis, who averaged 28.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game last year, can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020.
"I did it because I was protecting the then-Hornets," Stern said of the 2011 veto. "... To this day, everyone always asks me, 'Well why did you keep Chris Paul from going to the Lakers?' I didn't keep him. I didn't approve the trade. No team sells or trades a future Hall of Famer without the owner signing off, and I was the owner's rep.
"But I wasn't going to hand up Dell Demps."
On Wednesday night, the Pelicans released a statement supporting Demps and criticized Stern's comments.
"We are very disappointed to read the inappropriate and inaccurate comments from the former NBA Commissioner regarding the New Orleans Pelicans," the club said in a statement. "Our organization has the utmost confidence in our General Manager, Dell Demps. He is a part of our family, the NBA family. We are excited about the direction of our team, the 3-0 start to the season, building on the success of the 2017/18 playoffs. Finally, our organization is excited and proud to be part of the NBA with the progressive and innovative leadership of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver."