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Saturday, July 3, 2010
The secret value of Byron Scott

By Marc Stein

One of the rarely mentioned positives about the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hiring of Byron Scott is the fondness Chris Paul still holds for his former coach.

The significance?

The Cavs now have two people Paul would love to work with if he ever leaves New Orleans … provided, of course, that Cleveland can convince LeBron James to stay in free agency.

Sources close to the situation have maintained for months that any team employing Scott automatically becomes a potential down-the-road destination for Paul because of their close player-coach relationship. So it’s not much of a stretch from there, given the open secret that LeBron and his close buddy CP3 want to play together someday, to imagine Paul angling to land with the Cavs if James stays to play for Scott.

The bond between Paul and Scott certainly isn’t enough to clinch LeBron’s return to Cleveland. Especially when A) Cleveland presently lacks the trade assets to go after Paul, and B) sources with knowledge of New Orleans’ thinking say that the Hornets remain intent on knocking back any trade inquiry they get for their All-Star point guard, as Portland and New Jersey found out during draft week.

But as James weighs all the variables factoring into his decision to stay with his hometown team or sign elsewhere, Scott’s appeal as a coach spikes further if you can legitimately say that his presence could potentially lure Paul to Cleveland.

We already know that Scott’s pedigree as a former player is something that appeals to James, given LeBron's well-chronicled dismay with the lack of NBA playing experience on the staff of former coach Mike Brown. Yet you’d have to say that the Scott/Paul dynamic, at the very least, is one more plus point on James’ pro-Cavs list.

How soon any of this might be able to tangibly help Cleveland, mind you, is up for debate.

Hornets president Hugh Weber, at a team event Saturday morning with Paul present, insisted to the assembled media that Paul starting next season in New Orleans is a 100 percent certainty.

"No question, yes," Weber said.

Elaborating on the increasingly rampant trade speculation surrounding Paul since his recent interview with ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard -- in which Paul acknowledged for the first time that he would want to be traded if the Hornets aren’t serious about spending what it takes to contend -- Weber added Saturday: “It’s more of a distraction for him, he’s the one who has to answer the questions.  We’re getting our business done and we know what we need to do and Chris knows and has been collaborating with us on all the moves and changes we’ve had. “

On Friday, Paul told local reporters that his preference remains staying New Orleans -- a city he is known to genuinely love -- and that his recent comments to Broussard were intended to “make sure we’re committed to winning.”