Hornets: Chris Paul did not request a trade

New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul returns to the lineup during action against the Boston Celtics in New Orleans February 11, 2009. Paul had missed four games with a groin injury. (UPI Photo/A.J. Sisco) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

Per ESPN…

Hornets general manager Dell Demps says star guard Chris Paul did not request a trade during a meeting with New Orleans executives.

Demps says he is confident that Paul will be playing with the Hornets this season after Monday’s meeting, which included new coach Monty Williams and team president Hugh Weber.

In a statement released by the team, Paul says he likes what he heard during the meeting from the Hornets about the “direction they want to take the team.” Paul also says he hopes to remain with the team for years to come.

“The meeting went well,” Paul said in a statement. “It was great to get an opportunity to sit down with Coach Williams, President Weber and our new general manager Dell Demps. I expressed my desire to win and I like what they said about the direction that they want to take the team. I have been a Hornet my entire career and I hope to represent the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana for many years to come.”

There are two ways we can take this: 1) Paul is just saying the right things while his agent, Leon Rose, works behind the scenes to facilitate a trade, or 2) Paul is being genuine about wanting to stay in New Orleans.

One thing that the Hornets have going for them is the city itself. Between Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, the area has been ravaged by disaster and it’s tough for anyone of Paul’s stature to turn his back on the city.

It’s going to be interesting to see how this story plays out over the next few days. Does the trade talk die off completely or does it pick up? Paul’s statement would seem to indicate that he’s satisfied with the direction of the team, even though the Hornets did little to nothing to improve this offseason. They made no major or moderate free agent acquisitions and they traded away the #11 pick (which turned out to be Cole Aldrich) for Craig Brackens and Quincy Pondexter.

If the Hornets can convince Paul to swallow one more season of mediocrity, they are likely to have $20 million-plus in cap space next summer when David West opts out of the final year of his deal (which he is likely to do, since it only pays him $7.5 million). Even with Emeka Okafor eating up $13 million in space, that’s plenty of room to re-sign Marcus Thornton and add a quality free agent or two.

For the last few years, the deal that killed the Hornets cap-wise was Peja Stojakovic’s. Now it’s Okafor’s, which is funny because how much more is he giving the Hornets than Tyson Chandler would? Had they just held onto Chandler, they’d be sitting with around $33 million in cap space next summer when all those deals expired.

Stay tuned. This story seems like it may have run its course, but when there’s smoke, there is usually fire.

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Hornets not listening to trade offers for Chris Paul

January 20, 2010: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets in action against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Tyler Kaufman/CSM.

Chris Paul and the Hornets are going to sit down today, and in preparation for that meeting, the team is turning away all trade inquiries for Chris Paul.

The New Orleans Hornets prepared for their highly anticipated sitdown with star guard Chris Paul by turning away the latest flurry of trade calls from other teams, according to NBA front-office sources.

Sources told ESPN.com that teams inquiring about Paul’s availability in recent days — and there have been several after persistent media reports suggesting that Paul will formally request to be traded at a meeting Monday — were greeted with the same resistance to Paul offers that the Hornets have maintained for months.

“They say they aren’t moving him,” one rival team executive said of the Hornets.

Sources with knowledge of New Orleans’ thinking said over the weekend that the Hornets’ stance is unlikely to change, at least in the short term, even if Paul himself tells the Hornets for the first time that he wants out.

When it comes down to it, the Hornets hold the keys. Paul has two more years remaining on his contract before he can opt out and become a free agent in the Summer of 2012.

But whenever a superstar says he wants to be traded, he usually gets his wish. Kobe Bryant is the exception, not the rule, because he was unwilling to go to a team that wasn’t up to snuff. Paul already has a list of four or five teams (New York, Orlando, Portland, Dallas and possibly the Lakers) that he’d play for and there are probably a few more teams (Houston, Oklahoma City) who could be in the running as well.

The chances are slim that the Hornets will be able to convince him to stay. They have to prove (or at least have a plan) to turn the team into a contender in the next two years, or else they’ll get nothing for Paul when he bolts in 2012. They haven’t shown that they’re committed to winning (i.e. willing to spend) over the past few months, though they’ve been a bit schizophrenic, financially-speaking (by trading for Emeka Okafor and his monster contract and then turning around and handing the #11 pick over to the Thunder).

GM Jeff Bower is out, and Dell Demps is in. He worked for the Spurs, so he knows how a winning organization is run. But he better have a good plan in place if he hopes to convince Paul to stop all of this trade talk. It sure seems like we’ve passed the point of no return with regard to Paul staying put.

But the Hornets were wise to play things close to the vest over the last week. It does them no good to talk to other teams about trading Paul if they are truly hoping to keep him. All that would do is fuel speculation that he’s available and essentially push him out the door. There is plenty of time to get the best possible deal if the Hornets choose to go that route.

Magic atop Paul’s list, but do the Knicks have more to offer?

New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul shoots during warm ups before game two of their opening round series against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center in Denver on April 22, 2009. Paul and the Hornets are 0-1 in the playoffs against the Nuggets. (UPI Photo/Gary C. Caskey) Photo via Newscom Photo via Newscom

There were rumblings that the Knicks were Chris Paul’s preferred destination, but now ESPN is reporting that the Magic top his list.

The New Orleans Hornets have yet to start entertaining trade offers for Chris Paul, but that hasn’t stopped the superstar point guard from making exit plans.

The Orlando Magic have emerged as the top team on Paul’s list of preferred destinations, replacing the New York Knicks, according to league sources.

While the Knicks are still high on Paul’s list, he believes the Magic, with All-Star center Dwight Howard, would be a better fit. Paul also realizes Orlando has much more to offer New Orleans in a trade and therefore believes it is a more realistic destination than New York, according to the sources.

When I ran through the various trade scenarios for each team reportedly on Paul’s list, I came up with a deal in the ESPN Trade Machine that would send Jameer Nelson, Marcin Gortat, Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus to New Orleans for Paul and Okafor. That doesn’t seem like enough for CP3, even with one or two first round picks thrown in. But who else do the Magic have that the Hornets would want? Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter are too expensive. At least this deal would give Hornets a starting-caliber center (Gortat), an inexpensive quality point guard (Nelson), and a couple of rotation players in Pietrus and Bass.

As for the Knicks, this deal would send Danilo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and Anthony Randolph (along with the expiring contracts of Eddy Curry and Kelenna Azubuike) to New Orleans for Paul and Okafor. Gallinari, Chandler and Randolph are all inexpensive, up-and-coming players and could be part of a formidable starting five (with Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton) in a few years.

Don’t the Knicks actually have more to offer?

Paul is meeting with the Hornets on Monday, so I’d expect some movement on this sometime next week. With the way this news is leaking out, it seems like he has his bags packed. The Hornets probably missed the boat on keeping Paul when they traded away their #11 pick and pretty much stood pat this summer (instead of trading Collison away for more wing help and/or making a run at Mike Miller).

Two more trade ideas for Chris Paul

Feb. 28, 2010: New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul did not play due to an injured knee during an NBA game between the New Orleans Hornets and the Dallas Mavericks at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, TX Dallas defeated New Orleans 108-100.

Earlier today, I suggested a few trades that the teams — Lakers, Knicks and Magic — reportedly on Chris Paul’s short list could offer the Hornets.

Chris Broussard is now reporting that L.A. is not one of Paul’s preferred destinations, while Portland and Dallas are. Here’s a look at each team and the kind of deals they can offer.

TRAIL BLAZERS

Would both teams agree to a straight up Chris Paul/Brandon Roy swap? Since Roy is a base year compensation player, other assets would need to be included. Roy’s knees are a concern, but he’d give the Hornets a great backcourt (with Darren Collison) to build around. If the Blazers are unwilling to part with Roy, they could send LaMarcus Aldridge and Andre Miller to the Hornets for Paul. If the Hornets require that any deal include Emeka Okafor’s massive contract, the Blazers could include Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham and Jeff Pendergraph to even things out.

I doubt the Hornets would go for a deal that didn’t include Roy or Aldridge, but you never know. How about this deal that would include Przybilla and Miller along with Nicolas Batum, Rudy Fernandez and Greg Oden?

MAVERICKS

You know Mark Cuban started salivating when he heard that the Mavs were on Paul’s short list, but what can Dallas offer? They have plenty of talent, but they don’t have the kind of young talent that the Hornets would be interested in. Their best young player, Roddy Beaubois, is a guard, and the Hornets don’t really need guards with Collison and Marcus Thornton on the roster. Still, he’s a valuable asset, so he would probably be included.

How about Paul and Okafor for Beaubois, Caron Butler and Tyson Chandler? Chandler can’t be traded with another player, so it would have to be executed as two separate trades (Paul for Chandler and Okafor for Beaubois and Butler). The Mavs would get their guy, but I don’t know how a Chris Paul/Jason Kidd backcourt would work. Still, Dallas shouldn’t turn down a chance at Paul because they still have Kidd.

For the Hornets, they’d get a good young asset in Beaubois and immediate salary cap relief in Butler (who is a good player in his own right) and Chandler. The Mavs could always throw in a couple of first round picks to sweeten the deal. In the short term, New Orleans could start Collison, Thornton, Butler, West and Chandler, and they’d have loads of cap space to reload next summer.

There’s no doubt that the phone lines in New Orleans are burning up with this latest news. Just when you thought the NBA offseason was winding down, this happens.

Three trade scenarios involving Chris Paul

January 20, 2010: Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets in action against the Memphis Grizzlies during an NBA game in the New Orleans Arena in New Orleans, LA. Tyler Kaufman/CSM.

Ken Berger of CBS Sports has a source that says Paul has been far more aggressive in angling for a trade than we’ve been led to believe.

When Paul was quoted a few weeks ago as saying he’d be open to a trade if the Hornets aren’t committed to building a championship team, it was only a small hint as to the size of the chasm that exists between the franchise and its cornerstone player. Paul, in fact, has put into motion an aggressive exit strategy that will accelerate in the coming weeks, and his clear intention is to be traded before the start of the 2010-11 season, a person with direct knowledge of his plans told CBSSports.com Wednesday.

“He wants out,” said the person, who has been briefed on Paul’s strategy but spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss it publicly. “He wants to play with another superstar. He wants to follow LeBron’s model of teaming up with other great players.”

Paul’s list of preferred destinations consists of the Knicks, Magic and Lakers, and members of his inner circle already have sent word to the Hornets of his desire to be traded to one of those teams, sources say. If Paul has his way, he’s played his last game in a Hornets jersey.

Couple this with the changes at head coach and general manager and it’s clear that the Hornets are a franchise in flux. (This is also why it was so surprising that the Nets were considering Jeff Bower as their GM. He drafted well in New Orleans, but his trades for Peja Stojakovic and Emeka Okafor have put the team in its current predicament.)

So it sounds as if Paul has made his mind up, and is using the ‘committed to winning’ reasoning to get everyone ready for a possible trade. The three teams he reportedly wants to go to all have another star. The Lakers and Magic are established champions/contenders, while the Knicks are attractive due to the market and the presence of Amare Stoudemire.

The writing has been on the wall for some time now, and if the Hornets can’t convince Paul to stick around, their choice is clear. They need to package him with Okafor’s contract and rebuild around their promising young backcourt of Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton.

Here are a few possible trades that make some sense for both sides:

LAKERS

Of the three teams mentioned, the Lakers are able to offer the most attractive package. Perhaps L.A. would be willing to send Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom to the Hornets for Paul and Okafor. (See this deal in ESPN’s NBA Trade Machine.) At first glance this seems to be a lot to give up for a disgruntled star, but we’re talking about the best or the second-best point guard in the league. L.A. has just won two titles — why fix something that isn’t broken? Well, an aging Celtics team just took them to seven games, so the new-look Miami Heat must have the Lakers’ brass a little worried. There’s a saying: If you’re not getting better, you’re falling behind.

For their part, this deal would allow the Hornets to save $5 million this season, and would give the team enough cap space next summer for a max free agent. In total, they would save around $20 million over the next few years, depending on how much of Lamar Odom’s final year is guaranteed. If Bynum can put his knee problems behind him, he’d be a nice addition to the Collison/Thornton core. If not, then the Hornets can get out of the deal in the summer of 2012.

The big downside for the Hornets would be trading Paul to an already strong team in the conference. They’d essentially be enabling the Lakers to control the West for the next several years.

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