July 22, 2010
On July 21, 2010, CBSSports.com's Ken Berger wrote a column detailing how
LRMR "a person with direct knowledge of his plans" is certain Paul is going to request a trade to new Hornets personnel boss Dell Demps before the season starts. Paul can't issue a trade demand publicly because he'd be fined. And he also can't issue one publicly because he'd look like a mug.
Because this is what you get when you sign long contract extensions with teams that have already peaked.
CP3 signed his extension in 2008 soon after the New Orleans Hornets gave the defending champion San Antonio Spurs all they could handle before losing in the second round of the playoffs. With David West(notes) screening and Paul rolling, the team seemed poise to break through to the next level by anyone who wasn't really paying attention. But, really, this was the best the Hornets were ever going to get as presently constructed.
Because you have to look at this roster. All of the main components of the team's rotation played 76-plus games. Including Paul (who missed 18 games the year before that), Peja Stojakovic(notes) (who missed 69 games the season before) and the perpetually fragile Tyson Chandler(notes). The rest of the contributors, including Peja? Already sliding or about to hit the first downslide in the descent from their respective primes. Bonzi Wells(notes), Bobby Jackson(notes), Jannero Pargo(notes) — all men we'd already seen the absolute best from.
And, yet, Paul signed the contract extension.
Because the Hornets were a good team the year before, and because players like money. They talk themselves into believing their current situation is better than it is, because the money is better with an incumbent team than it would be with a squad you'd have to jump to. So they talk themselves into thinking that Peja Stojakovic (who had just turned 31) was a proper third wheel on a championship team. That things were going nowhere but up.
And you can't blame Paul for that. He's only human. But you can blame him if LRMR's rumored machinations are true, and if he attempts to weasel his way out of New Orleans.
Is it his fault that the team's ownership group is an absolute mess? That George Shinn might be one of the most loathsome people in sports? Of course not. You can't blame him for not being able to stand the head of this fish, but you can blame him for trying to get out.
Because George Shinn was just as loathsome back in 2008. Paul knew what he was getting into, and nobody forced him to go for a deal that would pay him until 2012.
Is it Paul's fault that the team was capped out, could only really upgrade through the lower portion of the draft, with the midlevel exception (signing James Posey(notes) a few weeks later, a deal that was being laughed at even before it went through) and trades with limited assets to dangle? Of course not. General manager Jeff Bower, despite the Posey signing, did a masterful job turning a broken-down Tyson Chandler into the serviceable Emeka Okafor(notes) and grabbing two starting quality guards in Darren Collison(notes) and Marcus Thornton(notes) last season.
But Paul saw the team's salary structure before he signed. Three teammates were making eight figures a year by then, and would until Stojakovic's contract expired in the summer of 2011. Paul would join their ranks a year after signing the extension, and he should have known that any team with four players making eight figures a year would be continually capped-out, and better be pretty pristine already or potential-laden.
The Hornets were neither. And Paul acted unaware.
Was it OK for Paul to go glass half-full with this roster back in 2008? Of course. Is it wrong for Chris to not enjoy where he's at now, clawing back into playoff contention? Of course not.
Is it OK for LRMR to goad him into making a trade demand? No way. Absolutely no way.
Because this is the contract that Paul signed, for a team that had probably done all it could do. And unlike football, where you cheer for players sticking it to a system that could cut them in an instant should players fail to perform, NBA contracts stipulate that you get your cash, no matter how poorly you play or no matter how many games you lose to injury.
That's a good system, mind you, but it should also preclude you from using the worst representation company in the history of bad PR to complain about having to play for a team that is well past its peak, when you signed a contract extension with that team after it hit its peak. Want to play with a superstar, CP3/LRMR? Sign with one after your rookie deal expires. Or sign for less money so that the Hornets could move some trees around and possibly trade or sign for one.
But don't do it this way. Even if just to stick it to an owner like Shinn, who deserves all the nastiness he can get. The time to think about one's own fortunes is before you sign a contract. You study the team, you ask around, you suss out your options, you move forward thinking of yourself first.
And that line of thinking has to end the minute you put pen to paper.
Because you've made a commitment to a team. You've made a decision that this is the best team to suit your services, for whatever reason, and unless they have no use for you and are just holding onto your services out of spite (which we have seen in this league), you need to see that commitment out.
And, goodness gracious sakes alive, certainly don't seek Maverick Carter out. The absence of leadership that has followed LeBron James(notes) over the last few months and years -- you think that's all LeBron? That he's screwing this up on his own?
Get wise, Chris. And get your team back in the playoffs.