Now that Paul's gone, Hornets start moving on
WESTWEGO, La. (AP)
The writing was on the wall, or maybe off of it, when the Hornets removed an expansive image of All-Star guard Chris Paul from the outside of the New Orleans Arena well before training camp had begun.
Now general manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams have a better picture of some of the new faces that might grace that wall one day, and they can move on with their plans for the Hornets without the drag that a disgruntled superstar can cause.
''Now is the next step,'' Demps said Thursday, a day after Paul was traded to the Los Angeles Clippers. ''I don't know if it's relief. We're glad to get that process over. And we've got some other things we need to do to get our roster ready.''
The trade brought the Hornets a prolific young shooting guard in Eric Gordon, a 7-foot former All-Star center in Chris Kaman and a second-year forward with potential in Al-Farouq Aminu. The Hornets also got a first-round draft choice that the Clippers had previously acquired from Minnesota.
With that deal done, progress quickly ensued on the free-agent front with the re-acquisition of power forward Carl Landry, who averaged 11.8 points with the Hornets last season. He came in as a backup to David West and moved into a starting role after West was injured.
''He understands the system. He really thrived later in the season after the injury to David West,'' Demps said of Landry, who agreed to a one-year, $8.8 million deal. ''He had some big-time moments for us in the playoffs last year. We want to grow on that. ... He fits our system and we're excited about the agreement.''
Williams expressed mix feelings about Paul's departure.
The Hornets made it clear they would have preferred to build around Paul, had the star guard been inclined to sign an extension. But when Paul would not commit to that, Demps and Williams knew they needed to start seeing Paul as a means to trade for more of the players they needed to get closer to the vision they have of a hustling, scrappy, defense-first team.
''When you can bring closure to a situation and move on, you feel good about that,'' Williams said. ''At the same time, you don't lose a player like Chris Paul and say, `Let's move on.' He certainly was a gift for me (last season) as a first-year coach to have somebody like that at my side.''
Williams said he also will miss forward David West, who opted for a free-agent deal with Indiana instead of coming back. Williams wished both of them would have remained.
''I inherited what most coaches would want to inherit,'' Williams said, referring to Paul and West. ''Yet, it takes a while to put your program in place, so we're looking at starting over again, which is not something I had planned on or was looking forward to. But it's what I have to do, so Dell is going to bring the pieces that he feels like fit our system and I have to trust him do that.''
Demps noted that Kaman, who is in the last year of his contract, will be ''out to prove he can still play.''
Demps and Williams say they envision Kaman and center Emeka Okafor playing together at times, with Okafor, who has guarded the perimeter at times in the past, moving to power forward.
Williams said he looks forward to having a scorer like Gordon, who averaged 22 points last season.
''I'm always one to get guys on our team that I fear coaching against, and he's one of those guys,'' Williams said. ''When he shoots it from range or is attacking the basket, you're always on edge because you know you're in trouble.''
Demps said he has spoken all three of the former Clippers who are on their way to the Big Easy, and all of them seemed happy about it.
''All three of them were excited. ... They were ready to get here,'' Demps said. ''I didn't have to sell anything. I was thinking that could be a possibility, but that was not the case.''