Look out Lakers: Paul dealt to Clippers

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Look out Lakers: Paul dealt to Clippers

From Comcast SportsNet

LOS ANGELES (AP)Chris Paul will supply the Los Angeles Clippers with so much more than alley-oop passes to Blake Griffin when he arrives in Hollywood on Thursday night.

A bold trade for New Orleans superstar point guard on Wednesday just might alter the entire sports worlds perception of the Clippers. After managing just six winning seasons in their first 41 years of existence, the bumbling Clippers suddenly look slick and scintillating after swinging arguably the biggest trade in franchise history, giving them two of the NBAs elite players and a capable supporting cast.

Outfoxing the Lakers and thrilling their long-suffering fans, Los Angeles on Wednesday traded high-scoring guard Eric Gordon, former All-Star center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft choice acquired from Minnesota for Paul, the four-time All-Star widely considered to be the NBAs best point guard.

We decided for a player of Chris caliber that it was just time to make the move and push all our chips into the center of the table, Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey told the teams website. Were really happy about it. Chris is the kind of player that makes everybody around him better. Hes a general. He wins. Hes a warrior, and hes going to take this whole organization to the next level.

Even the Clippers themselves had trouble believing what their front office had just done in the moments after the trade was announced. Most of the players including the ones who were tradedwere on a holiday bus ride with season-ticket holders when their phones blew up with the news.

Griffins reaction was captured by television cameras after he chest-bumped center DeAndre Jordan: Lob city!

Its already a T-shirt in Los Angeles, and it should be a way of life when the playmaking Paul and the high-flying NBA Rookie of the Year get together.

While armchair analysts debate who won the trade and wonder whether the club can keep its newfound assets for the long term, its clear that suddenly the Clippers dont seem to be the modern archetype for sports ineptitude.

Sure, Los Angeles has missed the playoffs 13 times in the last 14 seasons, going 32-50 last spring in the Clippers 18th non-winning season in the past 19 years. The former Buffalo Braves have won just one playoff series since 1976.

And sure, the Clippers are still owned by Donald Sterling, the much-criticized real estate magnate who sometimes heckles his own players from his center-court seat. But the Clippers have been gathering momentum since Olshey replaced Mike Dunleavy in March 2010, patiently stockpiling good players around 2009 top pick Griffin while making runs at free agents such as LeBron James, who gave them a courtesy meeting last summer before heading to Miami.

When Paul made it clear he wouldnt sign a contract extension with the Hornets and was interested in playing in Los Angeles, the Clippers watched while the Lakers three-team trade for Paul was blocked by the NBA last weekand then they pounced, offering a deal that not even Commissioner David Stern could reject.

It was a pivotal moment for us, Olshey said. It took a long time to accumulate the assets for a deal like this.

The 26-year-old Paul is in his basketball prime after averaging 18.7 points and 9.8 assists in his sixth season in New Orleans, which he capped by almost singlehandedly throwing a scare into the two-time defending NBA champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

Paul will earn 16.4 million this year, and hes expected to exercise his player option for the 2012-13 season, making 17.8 million. The Clippers are counting on it, hoping two seasons with Griffin will entice both players to form a long-term partnership.

For Paul, Wednesday nights trade means no more lame-duck practicesor ducking questionsin New Orleans. Hes headed from the Bayou backwater to the bright lights of North Americas second-largest market, teaming up with a forward whose finishing skills are a playmakers dream.

The deal required Sterns approval because the Hornets are owned by the leaguejust one of the many reasons Paul wanted out.

Paul nearly ended up in a different locker room at Staples Center. The Lakers had a deal in place to give up Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol for Paul, only to have Stern nix the trade in a widely criticized decision that gave another black eye to the NBA just as it emerged from a protracted, damaging lockout.

Stern told New Orleans general manager Dell Demps to scrap the Lakers deal because he thought the Hornets could get younger, better players and more enticing assets. Demps claimed he and Stern were acting hand in hand, even though Demps agreed to the deal with Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak, who voiced the 16-time champions fury to the league.

I knew we were doing the best thing for New Orleans, and that was my job, Stern said. You have to stick with what you think was right. I must confess it wasnt a lot of fun, but I dont get paid to have fun, even though I generally do.

At least the Hornets know who coach Monty Williams will have available when the season opens.

Gordon, who turns 23 on Christmas, averaged 22.3 points last season with a smooth jumper and scoring instincts honed by a stint with the U.S. national team. Aminu is a second-year pro who averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds as a rookie, making only a negligible impact, while the 7-foot Kaman is an eight-year veteran who averaged 12.4 points and seven rebounds last seasonand has a valuable expiring contract that will pay him 12.2 million this season.

With this trade, we now have three additional players who were among the top eight draft picks in their respective drafts as well as our own first-round pick and (another) first-round pick, Demps said. Aminu is a young talent with a bright future, Gordon is a big-time scorer and one of the best (shooting) guards in the league and Kaman is a proven center and former All-Star.

New Orleans also sent two 2015 second-round draft picks to the Clippers.

Paul showed up for Hornets training camp last Friday, but has not spoken to reporters since. He was excused from a normally mandatory media event Wednesday, hours before the trade went through, in which players pose for photos in uniform and talk about the upcoming season.

He should have plenty to say when the Clippers introduce him to Los Angeles.

We wanted to make sure that we got the best possible deal for a player of Chris caliber, and we feel great about the outcome, said Jac Sperling, whom Stern appointed as the Hornets governor after the league bought the team in December 2010.

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews' late goal sends Blackhawks to win over Canucks

Jonathan Toews recorded a four-point night, including the game-winning goal, and Corey Crawford recorded his 200th career victory as the Blackhawks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Sunday night.

Crawford, who had struggled in recent starts, stopped 25 of 27 shots in this one. Brian Campbell garnered his 500th career point with his primary assist on Panik's goal. Toews recorded two assists, moving ahead of Jeremy Roenick for 13th among the Blackhawks' all-time assist leaders (330).

Marian Hossa, who recorded an empty-net goal late, garnered his 400th point in a Blackhawks uniform.

The Blackhawks had one of their best first periods on Sunday night, outshooting the Canucks 18-9 and taking that 2-0 lead. Richard Panik scored his 11th goal of the season from the slot off Campbell's feed and Patrick Kane scored his 15th goal of the season.

The third wasn't nearly as good as Troy Stecher scored a power-play goal and Bo Horvat scored 46 seconds later. But Toews scored off a carom off the backboards with 1:18 remaining to regain a 3-2 lead, and Hossa’s empty-net goal sealed it.

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

Bad blood fueled Bears-Vikings playoff bout profiled in 'Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon'

From the high ground of hindsight, what unfolded in the Metrodome that day in 1995 was actually quite a big deal. But not for reasons that you could have really understood at the time watching the Bears stun the Minnesota Vikings 35-18 in the wild card round of the 1994 playoffs.

It was not so much the game alone. It was the overall context of the time for the Bears, before and after.

Though the 1995 season would get off to a 6-2 start for the Bears before their near-historic collapse, the Minnesota game would prove to be the high-water mark for the coaching tenure of Dave Wannstedt. This was the postseason, and the Bears looked to be going where then-president Mike McCaskey envisioned when he made the play to beat the New York Giants in securing Wannstedt, who was unquestionably the hot coaching prospect coming out of the Dallas Super Bowl pantheon after the 1992 season.

To fully grasp the situation, you need to understand the undercurrent of venom that had developed between the Bears and Vikings. Bears-Packers might have been the glitzy rivalry, but what had grown between the Bears and Vikings was true hostility, with little of the respect that the Bears and Packers had managed. The Vikings carried grudges for Pro Bowl slights going back almost to the Bears' Super Bowl win. One Bears defensive lineman remarked that his most hated opponent was Minnesota right tackle Tim Irwin, adding, "He's a guy that, if I ran over him with a car, I'd back up over him to make sure I got him." Dwayne Rudd's backpedaling taunt after an interception came a couple years later, but you get the idea.

What's easily forgotten looking back through the mists of time was the epic decision made by Wannstedt to make a quarterback change, from a quarterback he wanted in free agency to one he knew well from their time together at the University of Miami. That was every bit the turning point of the season and the real reason the playoff trip and win ever happened.

The Bears had been annihilated in their first game against the Vikings in the 1994 season — 42-14 — and something was really, really wrong, which become glaringly more evident just a few weeks later, even though the Bears were reaching a 4-2 mark under quarterback Erik Kramer, the centerpiece of an aggressive offseason foray into free agency. But the Bears then lost — badly — to the Lions and Packers, with Kramer throwing three interceptions against Detroit and two against Green Bay, the latter in only 10 pass attempts.

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I talked privately to Kramer after the Green Bay game, specifically about why it was that he was playing his absolute worst against Detroit, Green Bay and Minnesota, all teams with which he was intimately familiar. My thought: You know those defenses and where their people are going to be.

Kramer shook his head: "The 'other guys' I know. It's my own guys. I don't know where they're supposed to be."

It wasn't a comment on his receivers whatsoever. It was Kramer admitting bluntly that he was not getting the West Coast scheme of coordinator Ron Turner and its timing element.

Wannstedt knew it wasn't working and made the change to Steve Walsh, who'd been the Hurricanes' quarterback under Jimmy Johnson when Wannstedt was the defensive coordinator.

That was the tipping point, and Walsh and Wannstedt are among the principals of "Bears Classics: Eclipsing Moon," airing on Monday at 8 p.m. on CSN.

Anyone with any time spent in or around the NFL knows that beating a team three times in a season is incredibly difficult. The Bears had been blown out in the first Minnesota game but had pushed the Vikings to overtime in the second and would have won had Kevin Butler not missed a 40-yard field goal try.

The playoff meeting was No. 3, and after the Vikings put up a field goal in the first quarter, the Bears scored with a Lewis Tillman touchdown in the second and just pulled steadily away from the winner of the only NFL division that produced four teams with winning records.

From there it would be another decade-plus — 2006 season — before the Bears would win a playoff game.