COMMISSIONER EQUALS OWNER

Finally, Chris Paul made it to LaLa Land. But it wasn't the Lakers who welcomed the star point guard to the City of Angels. It was the Los Angeles Clippers. And it wasn't easy.

The New Orleans Hornets traded Paul to the Clips for four players only after NBA commissioner David Stern, left, smacked down a trade to the Lakers. Because the Hornets are owned by the league (don't ask), Stern also serves as the team's owner, and he nixed the Lakers trade because he didn't think the Hornets received enough in return.

For that, Stern and the NBA took a public-relations beating over everything from potential conflicts of interest to retarding the Hornets' pursuit of free agents to disrespecting the New Orleans fan base.

"I must confess it wasn't a lot of fun," Stern said. "But I don't get paid to have fun."

Stay tuned to see whether the Hornets fans are having fun come playoff time.

IS THE MAGIC GONE FOR HOWARD?

Dwight Howard's preseason request to be traded not only dominated the Magic's shortened regular-season preparations but will certainly nag them until the situation is resolved. If Howard, the No. 1 overall pick in 2004, stays and  plays well, the Magic could be a threat. His departure, on the other hand, could usher in the first of several rebuilding seasons.

Howard has said he would love to stay in Orlando if certain roster moves could be made (don't ask, part II). But he is adamant that his trade request stands as the season begins.

"I'm at peace, but I know a lot of other people are going to be upset and not at peace with it," Howard said. "I've gotten every message you can think of, from Twitter to Facebook, to this and that, and I'm this kind of guy.

"But nothing has changed me. I've been the same person from Day 1 since I've been in the NBA."

And that person averaged nearly 23 points a game last season.

A BETTER DEAL

Forward Kris Humphries signed a one-year, $8 million deal with the Nets after ending his 72-day deal, er, marriage with reality TV star Kim Kardashian. Asked what was different these days as opposed to when he was last with the Nets and dating Kardashian in April, Humphries said: "Well, there is a lot less paparazzi here."

SOME WORDS OF WISDOM ABOUT EXTENSIONS

"No one from Englewood has ever been in my position, so sometimes I think, 'Why me?'" — Bulls guard Derrick Rose on his new five-year, $94 million contract extension.

"He's our final piece." — Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley on the signing of
center Mark Gasol to a four-year extension.

"Money doesn't rule everything. It helps. But at the same time, it doesn't consume you." — Timberwolves guard Kevin Love on the prospect of signing a contract extension in Minnesota.

"We want him to become a Hall of Famer." — Heat president Pat Riley on the contract extension for coach Erik Spoelstra.

VOTE FOR WHOM?

Billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, 46, Russia's thirdrichest man, according to Forbes magazine, and the owner of the New Jersey Nets, recently announced his plan to run for president of Russia.

"I deeply understand the demands and the strivings of the people who took to the streets," Prokhorov said. No, he was not referring to Nets fans eager for a  championship. He meant Russians protesting recently against what they called vote fraud that gave Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's United Russia party a majority of the seats in parliament.

BY THE NUMBERS

1 - Golden State has reached the playoffs just once since 1994, a run to the second round in 2007.

4 - The Jazz have four players 21 and younger, and all four — Alec Burks, Enes Kanter, Derrick Favors, and Gordon Hayward — were lottery picks.

23 - The Rockets will play 23 back-to-back sets and conclude 14 of them on the road.

35 - Spurs star Tim Duncan, above, may be 35, but he said he isn't thinking about retirement yet.