December 01, 2011
It's a good thing the New Orleans Hornets are being subsidized by the NBA, because if the soap opera surrounding Chris Paul(notes) were happening to any other small-market team, that squad's owner would want to force … I dunno, a lockout or something.
You know the drill. Paul plays MVP-level basketball for a middling Hornets team, and though he's said all the right things about his heart being in the Crescent City and the fact that he "bleeds teal and whatever that yellowish color is; dandelion or something" (actual quote, probably), he's also declined to sign a contract extension with the club and is just a year and a half removed from that notorious quote at Carmelo Anthony's(notes) wedding about his wishes to play for the New York Knicks. The Knicks have the cap space to sign Paul outright next summer when his current contract expires.
And, in a rare batch of good news, it appears as if the Hornets aren't taking this mess lying down. Here's John Reid from the New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Rumors are kicking up again about Paul's desire to play for the New York Knicks. And interest is peaking among teams willing to make a deal to acquire Paul in a trade.
Good. Do more than listen. Don't be afraid to blow things up, and don't be pressured into merely keeping your fingers crossed as Paul counts the days until July.
The new collective bargaining agreement has made it so Paul can't get the same type of cake-and-eat-it-too deal that Carmelo Anthony was handed from the Knicks last February, when Carmelo got to essentially force a deal to a team that rewarded him with a contract extension as if he'd been a Knick since birth. Paul can only sign a one-year extension with his new team, which sounds like a nice bit of needed leverage but in practice it will only probably serve to create more trade and transaction rumors down the line.
Still, the most Paul can make in New York is $13 million to start. Hardly chump change, but over four million less than he'd make with the Hornets. And New Orleans, despite working under the NBA's payroll umbrella, is willing to spend.
And they're willing to listen, as they should. One of the more under-reported stories from 2010-11 was the way in which Paul tended to coast when his Hornets needed him the most. In February he averaged just 14 points and nine assists in nearly 39 minutes a game, often disappearing down the stretch of close games. In April, with David West(notes) out for the season with an ACL tear, he managed just 11.4 points and 9.4 assists in seven games.
Hardly the work of a malingerer, but this sort of malaise is not beneath Paul. With every win needed as the Hornets attempt to stay in that playoff bracket in the Western Conference, the team can ill afford CP3's mood swings.
(Even if he's just about the best point guard we've seen in ages.)
Couple that potential frustration with his dodgy left knee, and I see no reason why Hornets GM Dell Demps can't do more than listen. Would it seem unsavory to possibly hand the Boston Celtics a championship or the New York Knicks their next All-Star? Sure, and you'll get the cable shows bleating away soon after, discussing all manner of small and big market irregularities.
Demps has a team to run, though. Not an image to uphold, not a star to coddle, and not a league (despite New Orleans' NBA association) to save. There's no knockout deal for the Hornets to jump on, yet, but if Demps goes loud and proud (unlike the Utah Jazz, who seemed to formulate plans to trade Deron Williams(notes) in an afternoon), teams will come calling. They should. Paul is that brilliant.
Soap operas can have happy endings, you know. Not that I watch any of them. It's just what I've been told. I swear.
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