Source: Hornets' Paul ready to return

Updated: March 22, 2010, 1:18 PM ET
By Marc Stein | ESPN.com

Chris Paul is on the verge of a long-awaited return to the New Orleans Hornets' lineup.

One source close to the All-Star guard said that Paul and the team are weighing whether to launch the comeback Monday night at home against Dallas or Wednesday night at home against Cleveland. He was a game-time decision against the Mavericks.

Hornets coach Jeff Bower told reporters after a loss in Utah on Saturday night that "we will be seeing [Paul] soon ... hopefully earlier in the week."

Paul has missed New Orleans' past 25 games after surgery on his left knee. He also missed eight games earlier this season because of an ankle injury.

The Hornets were 25-21 when they lost Paul in early February, but a 3-12 skid has dropped them to 33-38, leaving New Orleans 9½ games out of the final playoff spot in the West with 11 games to play.

Yet the ultracompetitive Paul is growing increasingly antsy and is determined to play again this season as opposed to shutting it down now that New Orleans is almost mathematically eliminated from postseason play.

One motivation for the Hornets to bring the face of their franchise back for the rest of the season -- at least in small doses, if necessary, at the start -- is to get a look at Paul playing alongside fast-blossoming rookie guard Darren Collison.

Although numerous rival teams are hoping that Collison's fine fill-in work will eventually convince Hornets owner George Shinn to make Paul available in trades -- or perhaps make Collison available this offseason -- Bower has insisted for weeks that he thinks the two speedsters can coexist in the same backcourt.

"I see two guys that have the same makeup," Bower told ESPN.com in a recent interview. "They play the game with the same mentality. They measure everything they do based on winning and how the team is doing.

"I'm excited to see them together. I do think they can [function in the same backcourt]. Not the whole game, of course, but I think they can play together and Chris can be a dynamic scorer off the ball. And [rookie] Marcus Thornton can be a dynamic scorer with them."

Marc Stein is a senior NBA writer for ESPN.com.

Marc Stein | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com
• Senior NBA writer for ESPN.com
• Began covering the NBA in 1993-94
• Also covered soccer, tennis and the Olympics

ALSO SEE