Paul to Knicks seems a longshot; more trade, free-agency buzz
Chris Paul wants to be in New York but the Knicks have little to offer the Hornets
Deron Williams re-signing with the Nets for a max deal isn't a lost possibility
Tayshaun Prince has drawn interest of three teams; Miami eyeing Kwame Brown
Assuming Chris Paul is paying attention to the post-lockout treasure map as he plans an exit from New Orleans, it should be clear by now that the "X" that marks his fortunes is nowhere near New York.
The rules of the game have changed, his leverage limited by changes in the soon-to-be ratified collective bargaining agreement that make it far more complicated to maximize his payday while forcing his way to the Big Apple alongside Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. The Knicks' roster beyond the two superstars is anemic, leaving the Hornets with little chance of making Paul's wishes come true while netting the sort of rebuilding pieces they so desperately want in return.
The question then becomes: Can Paul be convinced that his championship dreams and pockets can be fulfilled elsewhere? While there will always be league-wide interest in a player of Paul's caliber, the Celtics, Warriors and Clippers are known to be especially motivated to make him their franchise centerpiece and they might have enough assets to make it happen if -- and it's a huge if -- Paul's mind can be changed.
The Celtics, as reported by SI.com on Tuesday, have had extensive discussions about trading Rajon Rondo for Paul but needed a third team when it was made clear that the Hornets weren't interested in a point-guard swap. A Yahoo! report identified Indiana as a possibility for the Celtics, but there are surely others. Whichever team might play that role, Rondo's repute and trade value is such that the possibility will remain intriguing until the trade deadline arrives.
The Warriors' potential offer is more than respectable, too. As reported by the San Jose Mercury News, the Hornets have let it be known that they like Warriors guard Stephen Curry. Sources told SI.com that Curry and rookie guard Klay Thompson were both targeted by the Hornets as the desired pieces in recent discussions regarding Paul, though those talks are believed to have gone dormant for now. Since taking over the Warriors in 2010, owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber are determined to change the losing culture and second-rate perception of their franchise, and it should come as no surprise that they want to woo of star of Paul's ilk.
Donald T. Sterling be darned, the Clippers have the allure of Blake Griffin and a bevy of appealing talent to potentially offer. Shooting guard Eric Gordon and veteran point guard Mo Williams would likely have to be involved, but the Clippers also have second-year forward Al-Farouq Aminu and the expiring contract of veteran center Chris Kaman.
Because of a new rule in which traded players must wait six months before signing new contracts with their new team, there are serious incentives for Paul and his prospective new team to get a deal done by early January. That way, Paul could forgo his $17.8 million player option for next season and re-sign for maximum value (five years and approximately $100 million) when free agency begins in July, while also allowing his team to avoid losing out on other free agents.
It remains to be seen where Paul's treasure lies, but it isn't likely to be where he wants it.
Despite Deron Williams' agent declaring that his client won't be signing an extension with the Nets, nothing has changed about the All-Star guard's situation in New Jersey.
The forthcoming CBA means the idea of signing a two-year extension (which would be tacked on to his current deal and run through 2015) is the least lucrative of his many options. And you have to wonder if Williams -- who is expected to forgo his 2012-13 player option and join next summer's heralded free-agent class with Paul and Orlando's Dwight Howard -- wasn't relieved by that reality.
Under the previous agreement, he would have likely been pressed for answers about his long-term views of the Nets before the trade deadline. Now, he has the legitimate claim that it's simply bad business and he can let the season unfold without deciding his fate.
But should the Nets fall short in their recently reported bid for Howard and owner Mikhail Prokhorov's plan to pair the two stars lose its appeal, there is still plenty of time for Williams' situation to turn into the latest star circus.