The trade Wednesday of promising young point guard Darren Collison, who looked like a budding star in Paul's absence last season, officially ended any notion that the Hornets will consider trading Paul.
It's time to believe the Hornets. If Paul still wants to leave -- and he fueled the earlier speculation -- he'll have to wait until he can opt out following the 2011-12 season. Until then, he better learn to like the Cajun cooking.
The Hornets, who are strapped financially, spent the early part of the summer exploring some trade options -- to Orlando, Dallas, Portland and New York, specifically -- and they were encouraged by Paul, who questioned whether the franchise was willing and able to build a winner around him.
Even though Paul was the franchise, he became expendable for the right price by the presence of Collison, who played with surprising poise and intelligence as a rookie last season when Paul was injured. In his 37 starts, Collison averaged 18.8 points and 9.1 assists, which is why Indiana was so happy to get him.
By moving Collison as part of a four-team trade, the Hornets landed versatile Trevor Ariza of Houston, who will become their starting small forward. In a separate deal they also grabbed Marco Belinelli of Toronto, a sharpshooter who will give them more depth on the wing. The two trades made them considerably better, and it allowed them to move James Posey and Julian Wright, who were not going to be playing very much. And Collison would have been playing only limited minutes behind Paul, likely chaffing at the role.
During the press conference in New Orleans Wednesday, Dell made it clear that Paul was consulted on the trade, soliciting his opinion before the deal was finalized.
"We exchanged numerous texts, and he said he wanted to be involved in the process," Demps told The Times-Picayune. "We thought that this was a good opportunity to involve him. It's a player's league, it's a player's game. Why not ask the guys that are playing? We take all input and make the best decision for the organization."
The Hornets are looking at a starting lineup that likely will include Paul, Marcus Thornton, Ariza, David West and Emeka Okafor, which won't challenge the Lakers, but it isn't bad, either, anymore.
Ariza won a championship as a starter with the Lakers in 2009 before signing with the Rockets as a free agent last summer. He averaged 14.9 points and 5.6 rebounds, and he should get better playing alongside Paul.
Paul this summer had talked about the possibility of playing in New York, expecting that Carmelo Anthony could be joining him there as a free agent next summer. He also had talked with Dwight Howard about joining the Magic, giving them the best center/point guard combination in the league.
Neither option is going to happen now.