John DeShazier, The Times-Picayune
The optimist will say there’s nothing to be assumed from the fact that New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul changed managing groups, from Octagon to the LeBron James-led LRMR group. He’ll say athletes routinely change representatives and it means nothing more than they found a better “fit.”
chris_paul628.jpgDavid Grunfeld/The Times-PicayuneNew Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul.
The realist senses that Paul is slipping further away from the Hornets – if he doesn’t already have one foot out the door and a roving eye.
First, he stated he wants to win now and hopes the franchise will be aggressive in free agency (it probably won’t), and now he’s taking on LeBron’s agency at the same times James made the move from Cleveland to Miami as a free agent. And we know close to James he is, and have heard how desperately James wanted one of the teams pursuing James in free agency to make a deal for Paul.
Money-wise, Paul doesn’t seem to fit with the new triumverate – James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh – in Miami.
But Paul has two years left on his contract before he can opt out, and was the subject of trade rumors for a couple of weeks prior to the opening of free agency. And most rational minds thought it would be pretty hard for the Heat to lure the three All-Stars to South Beach; if Miami proved anything, it proved organizations can be creative and players can be unselfish and together, they can figure out a way to get everyone under the same banner.
If not James, Wade and Bosh Miami, then Paul certainly has other friends (Carmelo Anthony?) he might want to partner with in another uniform if New Orleans doesn’t do more than tweak cosmetically and count on in-house player improvement and good health.
Neither is a guarantee. The Hornets have waited years for Julian Wright to get better and have nothing to show for their patience, and few NBA teams escape an 82-game regular season without a significant injury. The lucky franchises simply don’t have their stars get hurt.
If Paul is as independent-minded as James – and there’s no reason to believe he isn’t – then he certainly won’t let the tug of New Orleans get in the way of him joining a title contender. Unlike James and Cleveland, Paul wasn’t born and raised in the New Orleans area and probably won’t be nearly as reviled as James currently is in Cleveland.
Few Hornets fans will begrudge Paul, who has been nothing less than a willing and positive ambassador for the franchise and region, if he chooses to chase rings in another city.
The optimist will say it’s all conjecture right now, that the Hornets still have two years to improve and show Paul that his best fit with an NBA team is in New Orleans.
The realist will say that Paul has fired off another warning shot to the franchise. Backing his statement that he wants to win now, he hired an agency that has shown the willingness to help a franchise player get in position to do just that.
The Hornets, obviously, have time. But Paul seems to be letting the organization know he’s watching the clock, too.
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