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Okafor's Contract Makes Chris Paul to Orlando Unlikely

Jul 25, 2010 – 2:33 PM
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Tim Povtak

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The Orlando Magic might be atop the wish list of disgruntled point guard Chris Paul -- which is expected with center Dwight Howard on their roster -- but they don't sound very confident of landing him anytime soon.

They are not convinced that New Orleans will be bullied into trading their franchise player, not with two years remaining on his contract.

And they still are not interested in taking the bloated contract of teammate Emeka Okafor to make it happen because it would sentence them to long-term payroll disaster.

A desperate team with more salary cap flexibility -- like the New York Knicks, for example – would be more accommodating for the Hornets, if they decide there is no choice but to trade Paul.

"Much ado about nothing,'' Magic coach Stan Van Gundy Saturday told the Orlando Sentinel when asked about reports linking his team to Paul.

"We are only involved in this story because someone said he wants to be traded and someone said he wants to come to Orlando,'' Van Gundy told FanHouse Sunday. "It's a New Orleans and Chris Paul story.''

Magic general manager Otis Smith described the Orlando/Paul link as "rumors.''

Paul is expected to meet Monday with Hornets president Hugh Weber, general manager Dell Demps and head coach Monty Williams to discuss his unhappiness with the direction of the franchise and his desire to be traded.

Paul had hoped that the Hornets would become a bigger player in free agency this summer, particularly after seeing the Miami Heat land LeBron James and Chris Bosh and seeing several other teams make aggressive moves to improve. The Hornets, who are in the midst of being sold, have no salary cap room and have added only backup center Aaron Gray in free agency.

Hornets president Hugh Weber told John Reid of the Times Picayune that he has no plans to trade Paul. But that hasn't stopped Paul's agent, Leon Rose, from contacting various teams on Paul's wish list to try and gauge their interest in the star point guard. An ESPN report, citing a source close to Paul, said that the Magic and Knicks were 1-2 on his list of teams he would like to join.

The Hornets, though, are under no obligation to accommodate Paul, and they will try and convince him Monday to buy into their future plans with a new coach and new general manager. If they decide to trade him, they will open the bidding to everyone, create a frenzy of interest.

As FanHouse first reported before the NBA Draft last month, the Magic spoke with the Hornets about the possible availability of Paul, and a potential trade that would have included Vince Carter (the last year of his contract), Jameer Nelson and center Marcin Gortat for Paul and Okafor.

Unless the Magic could find a third team to take Okafor – and the four-years, $52 million left on his contract -- his inclusion would hinder any potential trade talks.

If the Magic had Okafor on the roster, it would give them four contracts at or near the NBA maximum, crippling them deep in the luxury tax for many years.

For example, their payroll through the 2012-13 would include Rashard Lewis ($23 million), Dwight Howard ($19 million), Paul ($17 million) and Okafor ($13 million).

According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the Grizzlies also talked trade before the draft with the Hornets for Paul that was heavily loaded with draft picks so they could start rebuilding without him.

Shortly after Miami had signed James and Bosh to join Dwyane Wade, Paul talked about the possibility of forming a similar trio in New York that included Amar'e Stoudemire, who recently signed there, and Carmelo Anthony, who can become a free agent next summer. Anthony, though, has been talking with his current team, the Denver Nuggets about a three-year $65 million extension.
Filed under: Sports