Saturday, July 17, 2010

In which Chris Paul drags us all into that Lebron mess: Part 2

Posted By on Sat, Jul 17, 2010 at 5:55 AM

So Lebron James goes to the Miami Heat, Chris Paul is tangentially related to all those shenanigans and now the Hornets have "mutually" parted ways with GM Jeff Bower because New Orleans and Bower "weren't on the same page" about Paul's future with the franchise (even though Bower had insisted that they were).

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Gee, where have we heard all this before? With two years left on his contract, Paul has made it very clear that he wants the Hornets to compete. Anyone who thinks he'll stay with a less-than-playoff-caliber roster is out of their minds. I'm on the record as saying Paul is not the type of player to quit on his team. And then Adrian Wojnarowski at Yahoo! Sports decides to throw a possible wrench in that theory with this remarkable story.

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click to enlarge cp3 ready to leave?

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Photograph by Jonathan Bachman

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The story focuses on James' off-season (and not-so-subtley hints at his petulant immaturity), but there is one passage that will be of great interest to Hornets fans:

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Within days of the season’s end, James and Carter traveled to Winston-Salem, N.C., for the birthday party of New Orleans Hornets star Chris Paul’s(notes) young son. With James on the premises, rules for the toddler’s birthday party included no photos, no video.

James was close with Paul, and free agency and the possible connecting of the players’ futures did come up in conversation. Paul was unhappy with the Hornets, and frustrated to see so many of his Team USA teammates on championship contenders and playoff teams. James and Carter long had been trying to recruit Paul to their LRMR marketing company and the Rose/Wesley/CAA cluster for his contract representation.

As a prelude to Paul eventually going into business with James, Wesley began working the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets to get them to try and trade for Paul with the strong suggestion that it could deliver James in free agency. Both tried, both failed.

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This, of course, confirms two things we already know. 1) Chris Paul is not happy playing on a mediocre team in New Orleans and 2) The Hornets are not willing to give up CP3. But this article also gives us insight on to the inner-workings of the new NBA economy. Lebron James may or may not be a lazy Mellennial who would rather join his ubber-talented buddies to form a dynasty than try and win titles by himself. But James realizes that he is part of a young and up-and-coming NBA class of superstars that essentially can decide their own fate.

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Chris Paul may or may not heed many lessons from this summer. If Carmelo Anthony goes to New York to join Amar'e Stoudemire, it could be a foregone conclusion that Paul is on his way to the Big Apple as well. That is, unless, the Hornets throw in a game changer. Bower never made a splash as much as he quietly filled in the gaps to the Hornets roster. If the Hornets can lure some serious talent to the Big Easy, they may still have a shot at keeping Paul in the long term (though it's not like their recent signings are indicative of a spending free-for-all).

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The nature of the NBA is this: players have more power than ever before. The lessons of Beijing in 2008 is that many NBA players, despite their outlandish egos, truly can get along with each other. The younger talent also have come to recognize that no one player wins titles alone.  Larry Bird had Kevin McHale and Robert Parrish. Magic Johnson had Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and James Worthy. Hell, even Michael Jordan had Scottie Pippen. And one thing we've realized is since "His Airness" retired is that there we have not seen another incarnation of Michael Jordan (even Kobe Bryant had to lean on Pao Gasol, Lamar Odom, et al..).

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Never have the NBA's best players had the opportunity to truly decide where they get to play and define their legacies. The Celtics and Lakers relied on great front offices to assemble their rosters. The Bulls, meanwhile, are still desperately looking for the combination that will repeat their past titles. Chris Paul and the Hornets are at a similar stage as Lebron was with the Cavaliers two years ago. Even if the new Hornets G.M. assembles a roster that wins the most regular-season games in the next two years, there's no guarantee that Paul re-signs. Not with the possibility of teaming up with Stoudemire and Anthony in Madison Square Garden. Not with knowledge that, as one of - if not the - best point guards in the NBA, Paul can decide where and with whom he can play.

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Again, this isn't saying that Paul leaving New Orleans is a done deal. But the fact remains that the nature of the current NBA is against team loyalty, as players realize their leverage in free agency and the possibility of winning with peers they've grown to befriend and admire, it's up to front offices across the league to make accommodations for the stars they want and try to build around that, or else be left by the wayside foolishly bemoaning the lack of loyalty from their multi-millionaire employees.

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