One week, he wants out and wants to play for a winner; the next, he's happy staying in Louisiana and slaving away for a last-place team. Unfortunately for the Hornets, Paul's situation is the least of their worries. They're saddled with a pile of bad contracts and their long-term picture looks bleak. They've got to find a way out of the cellar, but it may not happen soon.
2009-10 Record: 37-45 (fifth in Southwest Division, 11th in Western Conference, missed playoffs)
Celtics' record vs. Hornets: 36-37 all time, 1-1 last season
Familiar faces: James Posey (played on 2008 Celtics championship team), Emeka Okafor (UConn alum), Darius Songaila (originally drafted by Celtics)
Key additions: Ike Diogu (free agent), Craig Brackins (draft), Quincy Poindexter (draft)
Key losses: Morris Peterson (traded to Thunder), Hilton Armstrong (signed with Wizards)
Burning question: Will the Hornets scrap everything and start over?
Obviously, their first and foremost problem is the waffling attitude of Chris Paul, who's 25 years old and just now discovering the joy of being a prima donna franchise player in the NBA. But the Hornets' problems run deeper than that.
Take a look at their payroll — not just now but through 2014. It's a nightmare. Paul is owed $31 million over two years. Emeka Okafor, $52 million over four years. David West, $16 million over two years. James Posey, $13 million over two years. Peja Stojakovic is finally, at long last, in the final season of the five-year, $62.6 million deal he signed back in 2006.
The Hornets are saddled with so many bad deals that they can't possibly build a contender. The constraints of the NBA's salary cap and the salaries of their aging has-beens are just too great. The Hornets' best way out is to start shipping away contracts — even if they have to unload some prized assets in the name of salary relief.
On the court, the Hornets don't look completely hopeless. Paul is still the best point guard in the game, and he's got some talented youngsters around him like Julian Wright and Darren Collison. But the Western Conference is a cutthroat world, and the Hornets need to find a better way to get ahead.
The sad thing is that this team finished second in the West just two years ago. But the Hornets can't live in the past anymore. It's time to move on.
2010-11 outlook: The Hornets have enough talent on the roster that they shouldn't be completely hopeless, but they couldn't ask for a tougher division. The Southwest will be brutal next season, and the Hornets will have to take it on while battling chemistry problems and basketball problems alike. It's a tall order. If this team turns things around and makes the playoffs again in 2011, it'll bet the comeback story of the year — but don't hold your breath.
Did you know? Emeka Okafor and Chris Paul won the NBA's Rookie of the Year award in successive years, 2005 and '06. The two are now teammates in New Orleans. The only other pair of ROTY winners currently on the same team are LeBron James and Mike Miller of the Miami Heat.
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