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Scott Howard-Cooper

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Speculation is rampant that Chris Paul is looking to relocate from New Orleans.
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Hornets may have to make a hard decision in the Big Easy


Posted Jul 23 2010 8:53AM

This is not about whether Chris Paul wants to stay. As reports continue to percolate he is pushing for a trade, the overlooked is that it's much more about whether the Hornets want him to stay and, just as importantly, whether upper-management is braced for the fallout that would likely come from keeping him. Paul has two years left on his contract and therefore no tactical way to force a deal. The best chance to force an outbound ticket (if that's what CP3 wants, and no one from his side has doused speculation so far) would be for his continued presence to become a distraction, and that will surely happen if he is a Hornet into the season. The New Orleans decision makers, after meeting with Paul to gauge the state of the relationship, have to consider if they're up for that or feel it's best to be proactive in finding a deal.

And consider the New Orleans decision makers. The ownership situation is in constant uncertainty over whether George Shinn is selling his majority share. The general manager, Dell Demps, is a rookie personnel boss stepping into an intersection moment for a franchise and life as a target of constant speculation from fans and the media. The coach, Monty Williams, is a rookie who would have to keep the distractions to a minimum within the locker room. What an atypical situation.

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It's not Kobe Bryant trying to blast his way out of the Lakers a few years ago, the way some have tried to make it seem. Not even close. Bryant was a global icon and arguably the greatest player in the world, Paul is arguably the best point guard. The Lakers are a huge story no matter what, while the Hornets are trying to make themselves relevant again. Bryant had won a championship, had a no-trade clause that gave him a strong hand in picking a potential destination and personally took his desires from speculation to well-documented anger. The Lakers had a very stable ownership situation and a veteran executive.

• A regular-season game in London, a possibility according to David Stern early in the playoffs, is moving toward certainty. Official word will come when the schedule is released in early-to-mid-August. The Nets seem set as one of the teams, barring a late change.

It can now be said that LeBron James did not take the easy way out by bolting to Miami. Gut him for the tactless announcement, question whether the new three-headed monster can work, but he's getting ripped by Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, opposing general managers and his own hometown, and anything less than multiple championships will make the move a failure. There is no easy way out here anymore.

• A relevant point left out of the story last week on the Jazz setting up for the future even as they remain competitive and aggressive in the moment: Jerry Sloan develops young players. It's not the image of the coach who won with Karl Malone, John Stockton and Jeff Hornacek, but Deron Williams, Paul Millsap, Andrei Kirilenko and most recently Wes Matthews all turned early success into big paydays in the last nine seasons alone. Sloan is more of a teacher than given credit. Which probably isn't a surprise given the general lack of credit he's gotten while winning about 1,200 games.

• If you can stand one more LeBron deconstruction, the Adrian Wojnarowksi takedown on Yahoo! Sports is a must read. Great reporting that leads to great insight that leads to a great story. The other recommended reading is Harvey Araton on David Lee's parting act as a Knick. Araton consistently, and thankfully, writes smart while too many others drag down the industry by going for volume. Lee merely comes across as the kind of guy -- not the kind of athletes -- everyone can root for and why he will be a very popular Warrior after going to Golden State in a sign-and-trade.

• Yes, as several readers from Europe noted, Nikola Pekovic, a Timberwolves' second-round choice in 2008 about to sign, is from Serbia and not Ukraine. My turnover. (Have to be careful in glancing at the Minnesota roster too fast and going by Pecherov, Oleksiy. He is definitely from Ukraine.) But, no, despite the insistence from one overseas e-mailer, Pekovic will be referred to as a 7-footer and not 2-meters-10.

• Since it has come up lately: the Lakers will not be signing free agent Shaquille O'Neal. Not for the veteran's minimum, not for depth behind oft-injured Andrew Bynum, not for anything. They will move Pau Gasol back to center if needed. They will move Derek Fisher to center if needed. They will move Phil Jackson to center if needed. No Shaq reunion.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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