Paul expresses curiosity about overhauled Hornets

For now, it appears that the New Orleans Hornets made enough

front-office, coaching and roster changes to get Chris Paul

attention.

In time, the club may even regain their star guard’s

affection.

”I think what excites me is the unknown, not knowing what to

expect,” Paul said Monday on the eve of the Hornets’ first day of

training camp. ”Anyone who says they know what our team is going

to do this season, they’re lying. They’re lying because we’ve made

so many changes and adjustments.”

Over the summer, Paul expressed interest in being traded if the

Hornets failed to show they were committed to competing for a

championship right away.

Meanwhile, the club hired new coach Monty Williams, new general

manager Dell Demps, and added a number of new players including

small forward Trevor Ariza, shooting guard Marco Belinelli, point

guards Willie Green and Jannero Pargo and first-round draft choice

and swing player Quincy Pondexter.

While Green will enter training camp projected to be the first

point guard off the bench, the acquisition of Pargo could be more

symbolic of Paul’s comfort level with the direction of the new

regime.

Paul and Pargo are friends. Pargo also was Paul’s backup in

2007-08, the best season in the history of the franchise. The

Hornets won a franchise record 56 games that season, captured their

first Southwest Division title and came within one victory of

advancing to the Western Conference finals. Since then, they’ve

slid backward, narrowly making the playoffs in 2008-09 and missed

the playoffs last season, when Paul missed 37 games with various

injuries. Pargo meanwhile, has spent two injury plagued seasons

aboard and with Chicago.

”To have JP back is great. Obviously there’s a comfort level

for me,” Paul said. ”His energy and what he brought to the team

and the city was something that was special.”

Pargo said he directs conversations with Paul away from trade

rumors and the business of the NBA, but added that he had little

doubt Paul’s confidence in the organization was starting to grow

again.

”Right now, I know he’s happy. He loves this town and the city

loves him. This is where he wants to be and he’s happy right now,”

Pargo said. ”The fact that I’m here means he’s happy and we feel

like this team can win. You can read into that, and say that,

because we’re really good friends and we play well together and we

want to try to get this team back to the where it was before I

left.”

Paul is wearing a captain’s ”C” on his jersey, as is power

forward David West, who said he thought Paul was just being honest

about his dissatisfaction with the Hornets’ inability to compete

with upper echelon teams such as the defending champion Los Angeles

Lakers, Boston or Orlando.

”Guys just want an opportunity to win, and if you’re going to

beat those four or five (elite) teams, you’re going to need some

gunners, so that’s what it came down to,” West said.

”We’ve got to be honest. We’re not in that discussion” of

elite teams, West said. ”We’ve got to get ourselves in the

top-10-in-the-West discussion. There’s just no need to try to lie

or try to be kind of living in this fantasy world about who and

what we are. You know what the NBA landscape is and … it’s going

to take a lot of work to get there.”

Shortly after Williams took over as coach, he said he would not

have been interested in the job if he did not think Paul was going

to be around. He and Paul spoke in the offseason, and Paul seemed

to like what he heard, using the word, ”unbelievable,” to

describe his impression of his new, 38-year-old rookie coach.

”His basketball knowledge is something that is really great.

Him playing in this league is really good,” Paul said ”The

respect that I have for him as a man goes far beyond what I like

about him as a basketball enthusiast.”

Williams said he is tired of discussing whether Paul wants to

remain with the Hornets and is ready to start coaching.

”My focus has to shift to the team. (Paul has) been a

professional, as he’s been his whole career, and with all the

speculation, it makes you wonder about things you shouldn’t even

wonder about,” Williams said.

”This is going to be the last time I talk about it, because, to

be honest, it’s getting old,” Williams continued. ”I just want to

get to talking about the team and how Chris is going to benefit in

our system more so than talking about whether a guy is happy or

not. The NBA, unfortunately, can make guys unhappy for a long time

– and that goes for everybody. So my prayer is that he’s happy.

That’s what I’m believing. … He’s always been upbeat with me, and

that’s what I look forward to.”