Blakely: Paul may have to choose between Celtics and Hornets

Blakely: Paul may have to choose between Celtics and Hornets
December 8, 2011, 7:58 pm

WALTHAM New Orleans guard Chris Paul has made it clear that Boston is not his first (or second, or third) choice as far as teams to play for.

But the way trade talks have gone for the New Orleans Hornets in their efforts to trade the four-time all-star, the Celtics may be Paul's only choice.

And that reality is starting to set in for Paul, who may be softening his opposition to playing for the Celtics.

"It may not be what he wants, but going to Boston or staying in New Orleans may be his only options now," said a league source from one of the teams that could emerge as a potential third team involved in the trade. "And of the two, I think it goes without saying, that playing for Danny (Ainge) and Doc (Rivers) and those guys is the better choice of the two."

While no deal between Boston and New Orleans is imminent, it's clear that the Hornets are giving more serious thought to making a trade with Boston.

As reported by Yahoo! Sports on Wednesday, the New Orleans Hornets have ratcheted up their information-gathering efforts on Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.

He would be the centerpiece of a deal from the Celtics' side of things, that would include Jeff Green or Glen Davis, as well as multiple draft picks.

The Hornets aren't overly thrilled with adding those players, which is why the Celtics have been working the phones trying to find a third team that could provide some of the assets that would make New Orleans more open to dealing Paul.

Arguably the biggest challenge for the Hornets thus far has been finding a team that's willing to add Paul and potentially lose him after just four months, while at the same time getting "fair market value" for him.

Multiple league sources have said Paul doesn't want the Hornets to be left with nothing following his departure, which is why he told team officials before the season started that he wouldn't sign an extension which allows them to do what they're doing now -- pursue possible trades.

"He saw the heat, no pun intended, that LeBron took when he left Cleveland. Chris didn't want to go through that," said another league official.

So wherever Paul takes his talents, he plans to leave something more than just memories behind.

However, his reluctance to sign an extension with whatever team trades for him -- or give a commitment to re-sign when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the summer -- is why teams have been reluctant to give up too much talent for what may be a four-month run.

The Hornets want young players (preferably players still on their rookie contracts) and draft picks for Paul.

That's why a package centered around Rondo is one that, in comparison to the potential offers that could come from Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors -- two teams that Paul favors more than Boston -- is less appealing.

But without a commitment beyond this season, both the Clippers and Warriors have been reluctant to give New Orleans what they want.

The Hornets want a trade package from the Clippers that includes guard Eric Gordon, something the Clippers have said -- for now at least -- they're not willing to do. The Clippers are especially leery of Paul's situation after being burned by Elton Brand a few years ago.

A free agent at the time, Brand bolted for Philadelphia after helping woo Baron Davis to the Clippers.

As for Golden State, New Orleans wants a deal that includes them landing Stephen Curry, but the Warriors have told them and Curry that he's not going to be included in any potential trade with New Orleans.

"They want me here," Curry told reporters recently. "Obviously, there's the business of basketball and there are things that may happen with a GM having to make a decision for the best interest of the team. When you have a guy like Chris Paul, who is a franchise player, that's something you really have to think about it with anybody on the roster. I understand that. I'm not going to be upset if they entertained that."

While the Hornets are continuing to see if other teams want to get involved, the Boston Celtics remain the one option that's not going anywhere.

And at this rate, the C's may ultimately wind up being the only option left standing.