- Chris Broussard, NBA analyst
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"My first choice is to be in New Orleans,'' Paul said in a telephone interview from London. "I just want to make sure we're committed to winning. If we're not committed to winning and trying to get better so we can contend with the Lakers, the Celtics and all these other top teams, then I'm open to being traded.''
Reports that clubs have been making offers for Paul surfaced earlier this week. Hornets general manager Jeff Bower denied that the club was shopping its three-time All-Star point guard, but admitted to having dialogue with other teams concerning "all of our players.'' New Hornets coach Monty Williams said he expects Paul to remain in New Orleans.
But around the league, speculation remains that the Hornets may move Paul. With owner George Shinn's proposed sale to Gary Chouest being delayed for financial reasons, opposing executives believe New Orleans may have to trade Paul and the $50 million owed to him over the next three seasons.
"If George Shinn can't sell the team, I think Chris Paul will be traded," an executive from an Eastern Conference team said. "Shinn's strapped for money. He's going to have to move him."
Shinn, however, reiterated in a statement released Wednesday that the Hornets plan to build around Paul, not trade their franchise point guard.
"Chris Paul is the cornerstone of our franchise and brings us unequaled support on and off the court. We will continue to build around Chris Paul, and we want to see him in a Hornets uniform for the remainder of his career. We have an exciting future, and with the leadership of our new head coach and players like Chris Paul, we know the best is yet to come. We plan to take advantage of any opportunities to improve our team," Shinn said.
Paul said he does not have a wish list of teams he'd like to play for and emphasized that his desire is to remain in New Orleans -- as long as the Hornets are doing all they can to compete for a title.
After reaching the second round of the playoffs two years ago, the Hornets have been on the decline and failed to make the postseason last season. Opposing executives aren't convinced the club has the financial resources to build the team into a consistent contender.
"I'm fine with staying in New Orleans, but I want to make sure we're committed to winning," said Paul, who has been lauded for the community work he's done in New Orleans. "I don't want to rebuild. I want to win now. It's nothing personal against the city. I love that city. But my biggest thing is winning."
"I'm friends with D-Wade, LeBron, Chris Bosh, Joe Johnson and all these other free agents," said Paul, who's in London promoting his Brand Jordan sneakers. "I'm watching them try to figure out what they're going to do to put themselves in a position to win championships. I'd love to be a part of that stuff."
The reported offers for Paul have been rich in talent. Orlando has reportedly offered Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter, though Magic GM Otis Smith denied it. And New Jersey, which has had several discussions with the Hornets, has reportedly offered Devin Harris and the No. 3 pick in Thursday's draft. Both trades would give the Hornets good talent and save them money long-term.
While Paul did not say anything about playing with James, it's well-known that the two are close friends who would love to be on the same team. If a club with significant cap room, such as New Jersey, landed Paul, its chances of getting James would certainly increase.
Chris Broussard covers the NBA for ESPN The Magazine.
13hMarc Stein and Calvin Watkins