The New Orleans Hornets and Los Angeles Clippers have submitted a multiplayer blockbuster deal to the NBA that would send All-Star point guard Chris Paul to Los Angeles, a source with knowledge of the discussions said Monday.
But the trade as presented has at least one stumbling block: The league, which owns the Hornets, wants the Clippers to add Eric Bledsoe to a package that already includes guard Eric Gordon, center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota's unprotected 2012 first-round pick.
The deal would be done if the league hadn't asked for Bledsoe, according to one source close to the process.
The Los Angeles Times, citing two sources familiar with the discussions, reported late Sunday that the sides were working vigorously to complete the deal and that the Clippers would include Bledsoe but not Gordon.
Sources insisted to ESPN on Monday that Gordon remains in the trade and that the Clippers were hoping to keep his name from being reported because they will try to re-sign the shooting guard to an extension if the trade for Paul falls through.
The Times' report said both parties were in the final stages of negotiations and that the NBA will likely review the deal Monday.
A source close to Paul said he has decided to pick up the option on his contract as part of the potential deal, meaning he would be in Los Angeles through at least the 2012-2013 season.
Paul's decision was what prompted the Clippers to put the pick they got from Minnesota in the deal, the source said.
The Clippers knew Paul was unlikely to sign an extension with any team that trades for him because the rules in place in the NBA's new labor agreement make it more advantageous for top stars to play the season out and then sign a longer deal in free agency, even if they're staying with the same team.
Sources told ESPN.com Sunday that the Clippers, in one scenario, merely wanted Paul to pick up the option at the time of the trade -- thus delaying his free agency by one year -- if they would cede one of their two most prized trade assets for Paul: Gordon or a future No. 1 draft pick.
Sources said earlier Sunday that the Clippers -- if Paul agreed to do the same -- would be willing to reverse their previous stance and send either Gordon or the Minnesota pick to the Hornets because they'd know that Paul would be in place next to Blake Griffin for at least two seasons, removing the threat of trading for Paul and then watching him leave in free agency in July.
ESPN.com reported late Saturday that the Clippers had emerged as the "early front-runner" in the race to land Paul after the frustrated Lakers finally withdrew from three-team talks with the Hornets and Houston Rockets. One source close to the situation said early Sunday that New Orleans had asked the Clippers for Gordon, Kaman, Bledsoe, Aminu and at least two future first-round picks in exchange for Paul.
Sources say that the Clippers, meanwhile, are quietly confident that having Paul for the next two seasons will ultimately lead to a long-term arrangement, especially if L.A. manages to sign Griffin to an extension next summer. ESPN.com reported earlier this week that Gordon and the Warriors' Stephen Curry are the players most coveted by New Orleans in a potential Paul deal, but the Warriors have been pessimistic about getting the assurances about the future they need from Paul to surrender Curry.
The Hornets remained under pressure to find a palatable deal for Paul, who can become a free agent in July 2012 and has already told the franchise that he does not intend to sign an extension. In addition to New Orleans' natural desire to find a new home for Paul as quickly as possible to avoid the sort of soap opera that engulfed the Denver Nuggets last season until they traded Carmelo Anthony in February, league officials now technically in charge of the Hornets also know that the union has hinted at soon pursuing legal action on Paul's behalf if a new trade is not hashed out.
Paul spoke extensively with the union on Thursday, after Stern squashed the original three-team trade, about what legal options were available. The union planned to speak with Paul Sunday to gauge how he wants to go forward and how vigorously he may want to fight the league's ruling, sources said.
While Paul is despondent, sources say he also understands that a drawn-out battle with the league, whether in the courts or elsewhere, could lead to a heavy public backlash in New Orleans. But there is also a push within the union to sue the NBA if no trade is consummated by Monday, with possible claims of circumvention or collusion.
New Orleans officials are likewise crestfallen by the NBA's steady refusal to sign off on any trade construction presented by the Hornets, Rockets and Lakers that would have landed Paul in L.A. next to Kobe Bryant after NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed the teams' original trade Thursday.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine. Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.