National Basketball Association
Paul shouldn't follow LeBron's path
National Basketball Association

Paul shouldn't follow LeBron's path

Published Jul. 22, 2010 9:20 p.m. ET

LeBron James, look what you’ve done.

You quit on Cleveland, LeBron, and now one of your stablemates, Chris Paul, is throwing in the towel on New Orleans.

Great, we’ve got a league of quitters on our hands. Just what the NBA needs.

It’s been long suspected, but now Paul wants out of New Orleans because the Hornets haven’t given him the necessary pieces to win a title.


What’s next, another lame, prime-time national TV show, with Paul sitting down with Jim Gray and announcing where he’ll be dribbling off to?

Perish the thought, since James didn’t do anything but maim his reputation during his hourlong, self-indulgent snooze-fest.

It probably won’t play out the same way for Paul, who recently joined James’ marketing firm, and, according to people close to him, is said to be looking to leave the Hornets ASAP for New York, Los Angeles or Orlando, according to a report.

Since James took the easy way out by running off for Miami, Paul has been saying that he wants to use the "LeBron Plan" to get out of New Orleans. In fact, he told friends at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding earlier this month in New York that he wants to come to the Knicks, with Anthony, to join forces with Amar’e Stoudemire.

For starters, that was disrespecting the Hornets. Paul has two years left on his deal and needs to show a little more loyalty to his current employer. It’s a disgraceful act of selfishness from a guy who makes his money on the court by being unselfish. But he apparently skipped the ethics courses at Wake Forest.

Now, as for Paul’s wishes to join the Knicks, they can’t get a player half of Paul’s stature. They think that by acquiring Anthony Randolph as the centerpiece in the David Lee sign-and-trade that that will help land them Paul or Tony Parker. But Randolph, a prospect at 21, isn’t nearly enough to get one of the premier playmakers in the NBA today.

Orlando can offer Vince Carter’s contract, which expires after this season, along with Jameer Nelson. Portland has had interest in Paul in the past, but the Hornets would want to get at least LaMarcus Aldridge in return. The Lakers always get stars, but this might not be the best time to get Paul.

“If the Hornets decide to move Chris, they’ll want to get two very good pieces,’’ said one NBA executive yesterday.

That, by the way, is still a big “if.’’

The Hornets just hired a new GM, Dell Demps, who comes out of the highly respected Spurs organization and isn’t used to having franchise stars asking out. Tim Duncan dabbled with free agency in 2000, but stayed in San Antonio. Demps is running a front office for the first time and is not expected to trade the face of the franchise in his first act. A bad deal would end Demps’ career before it ever starts.

There’s talk that the Hornets would want to package Emeka Okafor’s cap-killing contract, with four years and $52 million to run, if they move Paul. But at the outset, Demps will probably try to talk Paul out of leaving.

“It’s Dell’s nature that he’ll talk to Chris and tell him they’re going to get better players and spend the necessary money to get better,’’ said a Demps associate. “He’ll tell him, 'Let’s build a winner together in New Orleans.'"

We’ll see if Paul buys that pitch. He’s been around in New Orleans longer than Demps and knows the lay of the land. Team owner George Shinn has been promising Paul an upgrade in his supporting cast and has yet to deliver. According to one person who deals with Paul on a consistent basis, he feels lied to.

Then there is the unsettled ownership situation. Shinn is in the midst of completing the sale of the team to minority owner Gary Chouest, who might be more willing to deal Paul and start over than Shinn has been.

But again, the Hornets don’t have to act right away, since Paul can’t become a free agent until 2012. Here’s a tip to the marketing geniuses who botched LeBron’s exit from the Cavaliers: If Paul decides to walk out as a free agent, he might want to give the Hornets a heads-up. At least he wouldn’t be repeating James’ colossal PR blunder.

Like Paul, James heard for seven years in Cleveland that they’d upgrade his supporting cast and build a contender. After a playoff failure when he disgraced himself against Boston, he finally stopped believing in the Cavs. Not only that, he did something unheard of for a two-time MVP in the prime of his career. He threw in the towel on being “The Man’’ and went to join “The Man’’ in Miami, Dwyane Wade, along with another All-Star performer in Chris Bosh.

You think the NBA wants two of its top players in Miami, where basketball runs a distant third to the Dolphins and Miami Hurricane football? Of course not.

But this is how players think today. It’s hard to believe, but the new battle cry is the old one: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.’’ It’s not going to make building a contender any easier in small and mid-level markets. Then again, Kevin Durant likes Oklahoma City just fine. It doesn't look like he'll be bailing out on the Thunder anytime soon.

“It’s something new to me,’’ said Knicks team President Donnie Walsh, who figures to benefit from the change in player’s attitudes, if he can land Paul and/or Anthony. “But it’s probably born out of the times we’re in. These guys play against each other in AAU. They pick their AAU team, so why not pick their pro team? It’s different than 10 years ago. So the league evolves in different ways.’’

Boy, it sure does.

But nobody ever said it was going to be for the better.

Read more of Mitch Lawrence's columns at the New York Daily News.


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