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Rockets acquire Chris Paul in blockbuster trade

Chris Paul is heading to Houston to join James Harden, and the Rockets will have two All-Stars in the backcourt to lead their chase for a championship after a blockbuster trade with the LA Clippers on Wednesday.

"Any day you can acquire a Hall of Fame-level player is a good day for the franchise," Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. "... It's a weapons race in the NBA, and you're either in the weapons race or on the sidelines. We felt with Harden in his prime, Chris Paul in his prime, this gives us a real shot to chase the juggernaut teams that are out there and puts us right there with them."

Chris Paul.
The Rockets will send Sam Dekker, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, a top-three protected 2018 first-round pick and $661,000 to the Clippers in exchange for Paul, who said on Twitter that he was going through an "unbelieveable amount of emotions right now."

The Clippers had not yet committed to give Paul the full five-year max contract of $201 million, league sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne. There was still strong internal debate on whether the team should pay $45 million in the final year of a deal to a 37-year-old player.

Houston now will try to acquire All-Star Paul George from the Indiana Pacers, sources told Shelburne.

"Since winning back-to-back championships, the pursuit of a third title has remained the ultimate goal for our franchise," Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement. "We feel that combining two of the league's greatest players in James Harden and Chris Paul, operating in Coach [Mike] D'Antoni's system, gives us a championship caliber team that will compete at the highest level for years to come."

The Clippers were determined to get something for Paul rather than lose him for nothing, sources told ESPN, so Paul, who wanted to play with Harden, instead agreed to opt in for the final year of his contract (worth $24.2 million) to facilitate the trade.

"Without Harden, none of this happens," Morey said. "He's the reason everyone wants to be in Houston. ... We have the two best playmakers in the league."

Sources told ESPN's Michael Eaves that the relationship between Paul and Doc Rivers, the coach and president of basketball operations, had deteriorated rapidly since the Clippers acquired Austin Rivers -- Doc's son -- during the 2015-16 season.

Paul met with the Clippers on Tuesday and didn't like what he heard from the team, sources told ESPN. He informed them Tuesday night that he planned to leave in free agency if he declined his option.

The Rockets needed to make the finances work before the trade became official. Houston's' other moves included acquiring Hilliard (from Detroit), Liggins (Dallas), Ryan Kelly (Atlanta), Shawn Long (Philadelphia) and Tim Quarterman (Portland) in exchange for cash considerations.

Because he is being acquired in a trade, Paul is eligible for a five-year deal worth an estimated $205 million from the Rockets after this season. If the nine-time All-Star had opted out and signed with a team other than the Clippers in free agency, the most a team could have offered was a four-year deal worth just more than $152 million.

Said Morey: "We want Chris here as long as possible."

The trade had an immediate effect on both team's odds to win the title in Las Vegas. The Rockets' odds improved from 30-1 to 15-1 at the Westgate SuperBook, while the Clippers' odds fell from 40-1 to 100-1.

"You can't have too many point guards, can't have too many smart guys, can't have too many stars," D'Antoni said. "... He is one of the best point guards to ever play the game. If we can't figure it out, we are in a lot of trouble."

The San Antonio Spurs had also planned to aggressively pursue Paul if he had become a free agent, sources told ESPN.

Sources told Eaves that Paul had become unhappy with Doc Rivers over the preferential treatment of his son over other players on the roster. Sources told Eaves that Doc Rivers would yell at players for certain things during games and practices but would not get on Austin Rivers in the same manner for similar transgressions.

In addition, sources told Eaves that Paul lost both trust and faith in his coach after Doc Rivers ultimately declined a trade last season that would have sent Carmelo Anthony and Sasha Vujacic to the Clippers in exchange for Jamal Crawford, Paul Pierce and Austin Rivers.

Beverley tweeted that he was excited to be joining the Clippers. The 28-year-old point guard received All-Defensive first-team honors last week, and he averaged 9.5 points, 4.2 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game this past season.

Alexander extended his "deepest gratitude" to Beverley, "who, for the past five seasons, always left everything he had out on the court."

Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was traded to the Rockets from the Los Angeles Lakers in February. The 30-year-old veteran averaged 14.9 points and three rebounds in 23 games for Houston after the trade.

Dekker, the 18th pick in the 2015 draft, missed all but three games as a rookie because of back surgery. The small forward was healthy this season and appeared in 77 games and averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.

Harrell, a second-round pick in 2015, averaged 6.9 points and 2.9 rebounds in two seasons in Houston. Wiltjer spent most of his rookie season last year in the D-league after going undrafted out of Gonzaga.

LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, meanwhile, tweeted congratulations to Paul, their Team USA teammate.

Paul, 32, has performed impressively since the Clippers acquired him in a 2011 trade with New Orleans.

Since the deal, he's made the All-NBA first team three times, All-NBA second team two times and All-Defensive first team six times. He's averaged 18.7 points, 9.8 assists and 2.4 steals over the six seasons.

But the Clippers' shortcoming during that span has been playoff success. Despite stars like Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, as well as the addition in 2013 of Doc Rivers as coach, Los Angeles hasn't made it out of the second round in the past six seasons and has lost in the first round each of the past two seasons.

Griffin informed the Clippers last week that he is opting out of the last year of his contract to explore free agency, and JJ Redick is also a free agent.

The Clippers are now focused on retaining Griffin, sources told Shelburne. They'll have an advantage because they can offer a fifth year, while other teams can't offer more than four years.

Paul was ranked No. 3 on the list of top available free agents this offseason compiled by ESPN's Kevin Pelton.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: http://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/19758509/la-clippers-trade-chris-paul-houston-rockets

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