As the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors appear unwilling to include their young stars in a trade for Chris Paul(notes), the New Orleans Hornets were redoubling their research of Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo(notes) as a possible centerpiece of a blockbuster deal, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.
The Celtics have relentlessly pursued Paul and have presented the Hornets with as many as eight different scenarios that would bring them some combination of Rondo, Jeff Green(notes), two future No. 1 picks and additional talent from third teams, sources said.
Celtics general manager Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers believe they can sell Paul on re-signing with Boston for the long-term and desperately want him as the franchise star of their post-Big 3 era.
“Danny is a risk-taker,” one league official involved in the talks said. “He’s willing to gamble on Paul, because he believes you win championships with stars, and he’s going to get another one to rebuild his team around.”
The Hornets had been hopeful they could choose between Clippers and Warriors packages that included Eric Gordon(notes) and Stephen Curry(notes), respectively, but New Orleans GM Dell Demps has been told those players are off limits. This has brought the Hornets back to Rondo and the Celtics' offer, which, as currently constituted, could be the most attractive to the Hornets.
The Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers are intriguing to Paul, who has ultimately championed a free-agent deal with the New York Knicks. Nevertheless, Ainge and Rivers believe they can convince Paul to stay with the Celtics beyond this season. That’s why Ainge has been so relentless on the phones, trying to secure the players beyond Rondo and Green that New Orleans would want for Paul.
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The Celtics had discussions with the Indiana Pacers about the framework of a deal that could’ve sent Paul to the Celtics, Rondo to Indiana and a package, including former Hornet Darren Collison(notes), Tyler Hansbrough(notes), Brandon Rush(notes) and draft picks, to New Orleans, sources said.
New Orleans would have keener interest in small forwards Danny Granger(notes) or Paul George(notes), but Pacers president Larry Bird has declared those players “untouchable” in trade talks, sources said.
Boston has gone to multiple teams in recent days trying to assemble a deal, but ultimately needs direction from the Hornets about what specific trades appeal to them. “New Orleans just won’t commit to a package,” one league source said. In the meantime, Boston has tried to juggle the potential involvement of third teams while the Hornets continue to deliberate their potential deals.
The background calls on Rondo cover the usual territory with him: his relationship with coaches, teammates and stubborn disposition, sources said. The Hornets hadn’t had the most favorable impression of Rondo, clearly preferring packages with Curry and Gordon over him. As the Hornets realize teams are growing more hesitant to give up assets out of fear Paul will be simply a four-month rental, they’ve come to realize that Boston’s offer could be the best on the table.
It appears unlikely the Clippers and Warriors will change course on including Gordon and Curry in a deal. In fact, Clippers management reached out to Gordon in recent days with a personal assurance that he wouldn’t be included in any trade packages to New Orleans, a league source told Y! Sports.
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The Hornets have only six players under contract, and had hoped they could find a trade for Paul – who has told them he will leave as a free agent after the season – before the start of Friday’s training camp. That scenario looks less likely, because, as one executive in the talks said Thursday, “They’re bringing in more teams, more scenarios, when we thought they wanted to narrow it down.”
The Lakers are still lurking for Paul, sources said. A possible deal with the Lakers would likely focus on Andrew Bynum(notes). Paul and Kobe Bryant(notes) have talked by phone in the past week, sources said.
Golden State is willing to offer guard Monta Ellis(notes) and young forward Ekpe Udoh(notes) as part of a package for Paul, but the talks are unlikely to progress if the Warriors continue to refuse to part with Curry. Golden State's new owners are fond of Curry, see him as a future face of the franchise and the prospects of moving forward without Curry or Paul after a 66-game regular season is too frightening for the franchise to face.
The Warriors are still courting free agent Tyson Chandler(notes), and appear to be finalists with the New Jersey Nets for the center. No one will count out the Dallas Mavericks from making a late push to retain Chandler, but Paul has indicated the addition of Chandler to the Warriors' or the Clippers' roster could play a part in Paul deciding to stay with either of those teams beyond this season.
Yahoo! Sports NBA reporter Marc J. Spears contributed to this report.
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