When there's smoke, there's fire, and when buzz persists for weeks on end about the young point guard of the New Orleans Hornets wanting out, it's probably because he does indeed want out. The simplest explanation is usually the best one. So how exactly will this all play out? How long will Chris Paul be a Hornet?
Before we answer this question, we need to establish one universal truth: LeBron James changed everything. With the charade he put on this summer, holding the fate of the entire NBA in his hands while all 30 teams prayed to win him over, LeBron proved that the players are the ultimate power brokers in this league. If you're good enough, you control your own destiny — if you can make anyone want you, you have complete control.
This could be the case again this upcoming season with Paul. The Hornets' floor general is 25, and he's already the best in the game at what he does. There isn't a franchise in the league that wouldn't love to land a superstar playmaker entering the prime of his career.
Everyone wants a piece of CP3, but it's up to the star himself to make the final call.
The snag, of course, is that Paul is still under contract with the Hornets, and he'll continue to be for the next two seasons. The youngster signed a four-year max contract extension in New Orleans in the summer of 2008, and he's still playing it out. He's due to make just under $15 million next season with the Hornets, and over $16 million the year after that. He's got a player option to stick around through 2013.
But don't expect Paul to stick around that long. We have reason to believe that Paul has strongly suggested this summer that he'd like to be traded, and the Hornets may have no choice but to eventually give in to his demand.
The Hornets were Southwest Division champions just two years ago, and they looked like a legitimate threat to take down the Lakers and cruise to the Finals. In the two seasons since, they've fallen off precipitously, winning 49 games followed by just 37. They've gone from title contender to lottery team in 24 short months.
Paul wants no part of it. He doesn't want to waste his prime seasons slaving away for a losing team — he wants a better situation with better teammates and a legit chance to win.
First of all, you can't blame the guy. Paul is too good to let his talents go to waste. And second, you can't blame the Hornets if they give in.
Paul has two seasons left in New Orleans, maximum. There's no way the Hornets can convince him to stay in the next two seasons — unless three of their massive bad contracts miraculously disappear from the books and a stockpile of stars fall into their laps out of thin air, they're destined to lose for at least the next couple years. Paul is going, and the Hornets' won't have a chance to contend until after he does.
So why not get something for him? Why not unload Paul when the price is right, acquire some talent to rebuild around, and get an early start on life without the old star?
Someone in the next couple of years will put together the right package to land the superstar point guard. It could be the Knicks, who have been rumored to have interest in a tandem of Paul, Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony. It could be a veteran Western Conference team — say, someone like Dallas, Denver, Phoenix, maybe even the Lakers — that needs a younger point guard to keep up. Or it could be someone from completely out of left field that comes and blows the Hornets away.
Whoever it may be, expect it to happen in the next 12 months. It makes too much sense — for both sides — not to happen.
Paul wants a new life in a new NBA city. The Hornets want a chance to start over without their disgruntled star. It shouldn't take long before both sides get what they want.
NESN.com will analyze 25 key NBA questions this September.
Sept. 9: Will John Wall be a star right away?
Sept. 11: Is Carmelo Anthony leaving Denver?
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