Thursday, December 1, 2011

Chris Paul's future (or lack thereof) in New Orleans

Posted By on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 2:21 PM

First off, in case you're wondering what exactly happened that past three months in which we should have been spending our non-Saints conversations talking about NBA games, please watch the video above for the most accurate recap of the lockout you'll find anywhere.

Now that you're caught up to date, we're back to the business of wondering just how long Chris Paul will stay in New Orleans. All the talk thus far has been about Paul's alleged desire to play with the New York Knicks, with the latest news being that Paul's agent has asked the Hornets to trade their star point guard to the Big Apple.

Assuming this latest report is true, this would indicate that Paul doesn't mind giving up some $40 million over the course of a long-term contract that he would earn if he signed an extension with New Orleans. The only problem is that the Knicks already played their best hand in the trade market when they gave up half their roster for Carmelo Anthony last season.

Most important, though, is that the Hornets are not the Denver Nuggets in the sense that, where the Nuggets seemingly had no choice but to trade Anthony to New York, the Hornets actually have a slew of viable options they can explore. General Manager Dell Demps is no fool and he's avoided the mistake the Nuggets and the Utah Jazz made when they sat on their hands for too long as their leverage wilted away. Demps has been pursuing trade options from several teams all while still trying convince Paul to sign an extension in the Big Easy.

The Hornets biggest disadvantage so far is basically the slim pickings of free agents this year. It's true that New Orleans, currently owned by the NBA, isn't in the best position to pay for big-time free agents even if there were any available, but it's not like they're being handcuffed by the league. Demps was given permission to enact trades and sign deals like any other league GM and there's no sign that commissioner David Stern has changed the league's position on this. After all, it's in the league's best interest that the Hornets stay competitive and lucrative in order to see a monetary return when a new owner is found.

That being said, Demps and head coach Monty Williams have proven that they can do a lot with not much talent. After all, who expected the Hornets to even make the playoffs last year? Or to even compete with the Los Angeles Lakers after David West went down with a knee injury? Demps and Williams were able to quiet trade rumors last year by sheer persuasion. Now they have something that amounts to a positive history to fall back on and every Hornets fan should pray that Paul is still willing to listen.

Meanwhile, Paul seems to be intent on having it both ways for the time being. While he's telling reporters that his focus is on remaining in New Orleans, his agent is out demanding a trade. Paul is keenly aware of his image and is one of just a few NBA players that hasn't sullied his with some sort of scandal. This possible trade is the closest Paul has come to alienating fans and, as likely the second biggest sports star in New Orleans after Drew Brees, it's clear Paul at least wants to avoid a situation where he's booed by his home fans like Carmelo was in his last days in Denver.

In the end, though, there's really only two ways that this could pan out for the Hornets. The first scenario (and the one most appealing to Hornets fans) would be if Williams and Demps are able to assemble a competitive roster and the Hornets take off like they did last year when they began the season 11-0. If the team is able to save a little cap room for next year, when the free agent pool becomes much more desirable, it may be enough to convince Paul to sign an extension and remain in the Crescent City through the prime of his career.

The second scenario (which is more depressing and, sadly, more likely) is that the Hornets trade Chris Paul sometime between now and the New Year. If you believe CP3's agent, Paul only wants to sign an extension with the Knicks, even if he can make more money and play on an arguably better team elsewhere. But, as we mentioned, the Knicks just may not have enough to deal for Paul and the Hornets are under no obligation to trade him to any place that can't offer a reasonable return.

All of this is just a long way of saying that there is just no telling what will happen between Paul and the Hornets in the coming days and weeks and, if you're a Hornets fan, you're better off doing what you have been doing during the lockout: focusing on the Saints instead.

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