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The Chris Paul talks that would never die were revived Monday night, with a twist that was enraging some rival general managers. The Clippers‘ winning waiver claim on Chauncey Billups allowed them to include point guard Eric Bledsoe in the deal, which could push it over the finish line, league sources told

By claiming Billups for about $2 million, the Clippers were able to solve the dilemma of not having another point guard on the roster — Mo Williams likely slides into the Jason Terry sixth man role, if he isn’t included in the trade or waived with amnesty. Thus, L.A. could responsibly include Bledsoe in a blockbuster package for Paul. Given that the league already has vetoed a previous three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, executives brokering the deal for the owner-less Hornets “have nowhere else to go,” said a person familiar with the negotiations.

“They have no choice” but to make sure Paul is traded to the Clippers, the person said.

The fact that Paul is dictating the terms by limiting the teams he’d agree to stay at least two years with to those that reside in L.A., Clippers GM Neil Olshey has all the leverage. So Olshey’s resistance to including Bledsoe, sharpshooting guard Eric Gordon and the Timberwolves‘ unprotected 2012 first-round pick is no longer an issue. The deal in its final form will be better than what the league was demanding earlier in the day, when the Clippers wisely walked away from the talks.

The negotiations were declared dead hours earlier, after which Olshey spoke with the Los Angeles media and said, “We felt it was in the best interest of the team to keep this roster intact.” In fact, Olshey’s hand is so strong in this negotiation that he could hold out for an even better deal now that he has an experienced, championship caliber point guard on the roster. But rival executives were circulating this conspiracy theory Monday night: Was it a coincidence that the Clippers were able to get Billups for $2 million when they were negotiating a related trade with the league office, which knew the competing bids?

The salacious conspiracy theory was only perpetuated by the conflict of interest inherent in the NBA’s handling of the trade for the Hornets, who were taken over by the league in December 2010. Given the backlash against the soap opera that has dominated the reopening of NBA business after the lockout — and the potential death knell for the New Orleans franchise if Paul were stranded there and forced to leave as a free agent after the season with no compensation — the pressure was never greater on the league to ensure that Paul was moved to L.A.


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