|ESPN.com: NBA||[Print without images]|
“Although Paul did not speak with the media, the team released a statement from him that indicated the three-time All-Star and Olympic gold medalist was encouraged by the Hornets' recent coaching and front-office overhaul. "The meeting went well. It was great to get an opportunity to sit down with coach Williams, [team] president [Hugh] Weber and our new general manager, Dell Demps," Paul's statement said. "I expressed my desire to win and I like what they said about the direction that they want to take the team. I have been a Hornet my entire career and I hope to represent the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana for many years to come." Paul has two years remaining before he can opt out of his current contract with the Hornets. However, he said at his charity golf outing earlier this month that he would welcome a trade if the Hornets did not demonstrate a willingness to give him a supporting cast that would make the club good enough to compete with any team in the NBA. Only days after making that statement, Paul fired his agent and hired Leon Rose, who also represents LeBron James. Paul also agreed to work with James' LRMR marketing agency. Paul's representatives then told the Hornets that Paul was interested in being traded, but the Hornets countered by scheduling a meeting in New Orleans that included Demps, Williams, Weber, Rose and Paul's brother, C.J. Paul. "It was a very productive meeting. I was encouraged," Demps said. "It was the first time I met Chris. It was a good opportunity for us to open the lines of communication. Chris had some very good points. ... He was energetic. He was open. He was honest. He showed that he wants to win, and that's what we want to do as well." Williams and Weber stood nearby but did not comment as Demps discussed the meeting with Paul, which Demps said lasted about 90 minutes. The Hornets prepared for their sitdown with Paul by turning away the latest round of trade calls from other teams, NBA front-office sources told ESPN.com's Marc Stein. Sources told ESPN.com that teams inquiring about Paul's availability in recent days were greeted with the same resistance to Paul offers that the Hornets have maintained for months. Persistent media reports had suggested Paul would formally request to be traded at Monday's meeting. "They say they aren't moving him," one rival team executive said of the Hornets. While Paul cannot force a trade, the Hornets opted to trade disgruntled guard Baron Davis during the 2004-05 season. New Orleans then began a rebuilding process that picked up speed with the drafting of Paul out of Wake Forest in the summer of 2005. Paul went on to become rookie of the year and quickly became the face of the franchise. A poster-size photo of Paul's smiling visage is the first thing that greets those who walk into the Hornets' corporate offices on the 19th floor of a downtown high-rise near the New Orleans Arena. Demps said he hoped Paul would not become disruptive as long as he remains in New Orleans. "I don't anticipate that," Demps said. If Paul were traded, it would be only the latest change, but perhaps the highest-profile one, for a franchise in flux. Nearly three months ago, the Hornets' founding owner, George Shinn, reached a verbal agreement to sell his majority share of the club to partner and Louisiana businessman Gary Chouest. A final sale is still pending, however, and both Shinn and Chouest have declined to discuss the holdup. In the meantime, former general manager Jeff Bower, who also served as head coach after Byron Scott was fired last season, has stepped down. When the Hornets hired the 38-year-old Williams in June, he became a first-time coach and the youngest one in the NBA. Then Demps, 40, replaced Bower in the front office. Demps, a former San Antonio Spurs executive, is a first-time general manager. So far, the only two new players on the Hornets' roster are the rookies they drafted last month: Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter. Their only free-agent move has been the re-signing of reserve center Aaron Gray, meaning Demps could have a lot of work to do to keep Paul happy. Demps did not go into detail about the Hornets' presentation to Paul. He said for competitive reasons he needed to keep much of what they discussed private. The Hornets' payroll is close to the NBA's luxury tax threshold, and team officials have said they do not want to pay the tax or take on new debt while the sale of the club is pending. Still, Demps asserted, "There's always ways to be creative. "I'm an optimist. I think that we'll sit down and evaluate the roster and look at all our pieces and move forward and do what's in the best interests of the organization." Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com's Marc Stein was used in this report.
I expressed my desire to win and I like what they said about the direction that they want to take the team. I have been a Hornet my entire career and I hope to represent the city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana for many years to come.” -- Chris Paul, on Monday's meeting
with Hornets brass