Paul refrains from denying trade interest
NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Paul jumped at the chance to express his love for New Orleans during his annual youth basketball camp on Tuesday.
Only the subject of his future with the Hornets gave him pause.
Paul said his meeting with Hornets general manager Dell Demps, coach Monty Williams and team president Hugh Weber on Monday "went really well." He added that he was "excited" by Williams' approach to coaching.
Paul even went so far as to say he's "never been able to envision" continuing his NBA career anywhere but New Orleans, the city where he became an NBA All-Star, the face of his franchise and one of the most popular figures in the community.
And yet, when given the chance to say without reservation that he did not want to be traded, Paul said now was not the time.
"There will be a time," Paul said, trying repeatedly to turn the focus of his comments back to his work in the community and his camp at Tulane University.
"I stay committed to the city of New Orleans," Paul said. "Everything else we talked about [in Monday's meeting with the club], like Mr. Demps said, we want to keep some of that stuff private."
Across town, the Hornets were holding an event to formally introduce Demps, a first-time general manager whose first order of business has been to prove to Paul that the Hornets can become a contender quickly.
Paul has two years remaining before he can opt out of his current contract with New Orleans.
I stay committed to the city of New Orleans. Everything else we talked about [in Monday's meeting with the club], like Mr. Demps said, we want to keep some of that stuff private.” -- Hornets All-Star Chris Paul
However, in recent weeks, Paul has said he wants to play for a team that could compete for a title right away and would welcome a trade if the Hornets were unable to make significant improvements this offseason.
With Paul under contract, the NBA has sent a memo to all owners and general managers reminding them of tampering restrictions, and specifically warned them about illegal contact with Paul, ESPN.com's Marc Stein learned Tuesday night.
The memo points out that teams interested in Paul must have approval from the Hornets before talking to Paul or his representatives. Any team found in violation faces up to a $5 million fine, sources told Stein.
Meanwhile, Demps sought to make it clear that the team is not interested in entertaining trade offers for Paul and that he hoped any skepticism of the team's ability to appease their star guard would subside over time.
"I don't know what else I could do," Demps said. "As an organization, I think we're looking forward to Chris leading us and we're looking forward to putting pieces around him. I'm excited about it and he seems excited."
Williams, meanwhile, defended Paul's stance on wanting to play for a winner and brushed aside the notion that the Hornets could wind up stuck with a disgruntled superstar if they refuse to entertain any trade offers for him.
"That's not in his nature. Anybody who tries to label him that way, I won't stand for that," Williams said. "He's not a disgruntled star. He's not a disgruntled anything. ... I've played with guys who don't care about losing and they make me sick, sitting in a locker room with a guy who doesn't care about the outcome of a game. To me, if you have a guy like Chris in your locker room, who is that passionate about winning, what more can you ask for?"
If anything, Williams said, Paul has said more to indicate a willingness to give the Hornets' new regime a chance than he has to provide the impression he wants out.
"I believe he wants to be here. He hasn't told me otherwise," Williams said. "He has never demanded a trade. He has always talked about how excited he is to play for me. We've gone over offensive schemes, things he thinks works well and what doesn't work well. Things change, obviously. But to this point, I haven't heard him say anything about leaving New Orleans. All I've heard is that he is excited about the team."
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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