Chris Paul May Be the Unforseen Catalyst This Summer
Everyone's talking, no one is confirming, and casual denials are the latest rage. Even reliably silent partners like William Wesley are getting into the act. Wesley told Jerry Stackhouse, publicly, that he had not spoken with LeBron James about his future. So the guy who never actually says anything to the media openly came out and on radio said he hadn't talked with his most influential member of "the family" about the biggest decision that impacted billions of dollars in the NBA. What's going on?
But with Chris Bosh showing up at Laker games, Dwyane Wade openly not propositioning Joe Johnson and Bosh in LA, James showing up at Akron rallies, we may have overlooked Chris Paul as the potential cog that unleashes all the wacky free agency maneuvers.
And look what we've got here. The more familiar William Wesley rumored off-record talks to fuel the rumors.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that Wesley has started telling teams with cap room that trading for Paul is the best way to ink LeBron James. Woj also outlines that Paul's availability is limited by the limited time George Shinn is still the owner of the team, and that ditching Paul would help him get the price of the team down to facilitate the sale. Woj reports that Wesley's partial hope is that Paul will jump ship to join CAA from Octagon, and that multiple teams have already pitched the Hornets, who wisely are rebuffing the offers. All this comes just weeks after Wesley publicly stated that he hasn't talked with James about his short-term future yet.
So what's the deal?
Hornets fans will revolt at this news, every bit of it. They'll claim that accusations of Shinn's frivolity are overstated, that Paul is unextractable, and that Wesley is just playing God with things he has no control over. Or that the rumors don't come from Wesley at all.
But if they didn't come from Wesley, they still came from somewhere. Someone is bringing out talks that Paul can be had for the right price, which leads you to believe that somewhere along the way, Paul has given reason to believe he's not 100% committed to New Orleans. This in spite of his considerable community presence, the extension he signed, and the assuredly other worldly trade package it would require for the Hornets even to raise their eyes above the morning newspaper to examine it.
This is what happens when the rookie becomes a superstar while the franchise player is on the shelf. Darren Collison's superb play creates the illusion that somehow the world would not end for New Orleans if Paul was to depart. This is false. Losing Paul would be the end of the world. The kind of penny-wise gold-pound-foolish approach that bombs a franchise back to the stone age, I don't care what Collison's per-40 numbers were. He's the best point guard in the league (yes, rabble rabble, Jazz fans, your complaint is duly noted) and you don't trade a player who's the best at his position.
There have been a fair share of dramatic trades of elite players for rebuilding packages over the last few years. But none would compare with the inequity of what the return would be in a trade for Chris Paul. For New Orleans' sake, let's hope these talks have been misinterpreted, or are simply part of the vast channel of noise floating around the league's top stars in the summer of (possible) realignment. Otherwise we could see an even greater superpower form than we expected, and a hard luck team that only two years ago seemed on the precipice of long-term contention could be staring at a long road of mediocrity, new owners or no.