It's hard to tell what's really going on with Chris Paul(notes) right now. The words coming out of his mouth say he's OK with staying in New Orleans and playing for the Hornets. But the words coming out of his camp say the exact opposite — namely that he wants a trade to a contending team. There's no way anyone can really know which is true, because if Paul were to publicly request a trade he'd be fined. All we can really know is that he has a very well-manicured line beard, which is obviously true.
That being said, if another team were hoping to inquire about acquiring the All-Star point guard, they're going to have to be mighty careful. As ESPN's Marc Stein has learned, the NBA has issued a leaguewide memo specifically warning about tampering with CP3.
The NBA unexpectedly issued a memorandum to its teams to remind them about the league's tampering regulations and specifically to warn them against illegal contact with Chris Paul, ESPN.com has learned.
The memo, circulated Tuesday by the league office, states that "no team should be having communications with Chris Paul or his agent or representative about a potential trade for Paul that have not been authorized in advance by the New Orleans Hornets."
The memo, sources said, also threatens to punish any such communications with penalties that range from "suspension of the offending person, prohibition of the offending team from hiring the person being tampered with, forfeiture of draft picks and individual and/or team fines of up to $5 million."
David Stern is not messing around, you guys. If an NBA team wants Chris Paul, it's going to be on the Hornets to work a deal. This back-channel, cloak-and-dagger nonsense isn't going to fly. We can't be having all kinds of superstars just joining up with each other all willy-nilly like a bunch of high school friends choosing to be in the same chemistry group. Super cool, top-notch analogy, for sure.
And while it's good that the league would try to prevent Paul's team of agents and high-powered friends from pulling off a trade, this is a no-win situation. Yeah, the memo's out there, but — as ProBasketballTalk's John Krolik points out — there's really no way to enforce this. Basically, you can't stop LeBron James(notes) from Tweeting about his friend, and fining a general manager for saying they'd love to have Paul on their team is silly and ineffective. That'd be like punishing someone for saying they love cereal, because, no duh, everyone loves cereal. It's just stating the obvious. Two-for-two on great analogies so far.
Nonetheless, that the NBA would go so far as to specifically mention a player lends some credence to the Paul trade rumors. After all, you don't need to warn against something that hasn't been considered. That'd be like someone telling you that the next sentence will contain a perfect metaphor. You know it won't, so there's no reason to warn you. A perfect three-for-three. No applause, please.