Blakely: Paul may have to choose between Celtics and Hornets

600376.jpg

Blakely: Paul may have to choose between Celtics and Hornets

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.

First Celtics practice 'a little different' but 'feels right' for Horford

First Celtics practice 'a little different' but 'feels right' for Horford

WALTHAM, Mass. – NBA players are creatures of habit so you can understand why Al Horford was just a little bit out of his element on his first practice with the Boston Celtics.
 
After nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, Horford hit the free agent market this summer and signed a four-year, $113 million with the Celtics.
 
Horford acknowledged that his first practice with the Celtics “was a little different” but added, “It’s definitely a weird feeling, but it feels right to be here.”

Players, coaches, national pundits, the list is seemingly endless when it comes to folks who believe Horford is an ideal fit with the Boston Celtics.
 
“He can do score in the paint, shoot 3s, defend, pass, he can do it all out there,” Amir Johnson told CSNNE.com. “He’s going to fit in well with us.”
 
But like any rookie or newcomer to a team, Horford admitted he had some moments when he was a step or two late getting to where he needed to be on the floor.
 
“We’re running through a lot of plays, a lot of concepts being thrown out,” Horford said. “It’s a matter of getting comfortable with all the sets.”
 
As much as he will work to figure things out, Horford is wise enough to know he’ll need the help of his new teammates, too.
 
“I’m going to lean on a lot of the guys,” Horford said. “I’ll definitely ask a lot of questions. Avery (Bradley) already has gotten in my ear, anything I need he’s there for me. I just want to get acclimated as fast as I can.”
 
Horford also said that head coach Brad Stevens has been extremely helpful in assisting him in speeding up his learning curve.
 
“Coach (Stevens) is very sharp, very . . .  he explains things well,” Horford said. “He explains things well. He wants practice to move along. The pace of practice, definitely a faster pace.”
 
But you won’t find Horford complaining.
 
Horford is clearly excited about starting this new chapter in his basketball career.
 
“For me it’s more of a relief, finally being here in Boston, house, being settled,” Horford said. “Now we can just focus on the season.”