– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Go to sleep if you want to. Just don’t be angry when you wake up and everything you knew to be true about the Chris Paul sweepstakes has changed.
With the list of teams in pursuit of the superstar point guard changing literally by the hour, no rumor is safe. And whatever you read yesterday, no matter how intriguing it might have been, probably can’t compare to the latest.
Our very own David Aldridge of TNT provided the latest update late last night, identifying the Lakers as one of the team that remain in advance discussions with the New Orleans Hornets about a potential deal while the New York Knicks are watching this saga play out without any real shot at landing Paul.
The other contenders, the Los Angeles Clippers, Golden State Warriors and Boston Celtics, are all chest-deep in the chase as well, per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. And the potential packages being prepared by said teams are rather intriguing:
The Clippers would have to include 23-year-old restricted free-agent center DeAndre Jordan in a package to get Paul, along with forward Al-Farouq Aminu, guard Eric Bledsoe and the 2012 first-round pick they acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Clippers are more attractive to Paul than the Warriors or Boston Celtics, because of the chance to be paired with Griffin and Gordon. Golden State has been aggressive in its pursuit of Chandler independent of Paul, but the Warriors don’t have as appealing a supporting cast for Paul. The Warriors’ offer for Paul is centered around Stephen Curry and rookie guard Klay Thompson.
The Hornets consider the Clippers and Warriors to have the most desirable trade assets, but Paul has been hesitant to commit to signing a contract extension to remain with either team unless they surround him with enough talent. Paul’s ultimate hope has been a long-term pairing with Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard, but Paul did play three seasons with Chandler in New Orleans, where they came within a game of reaching the 2008 Western Conference finals.
As constituted, the Hornets prefer the Clippers and Warriors packages, but were still discussing several scenarios with the Celtics – including third-team trade possibilities and sign-and-trade money for restricted free agent forward Jeff Green. The Hornets prefer Curry to Rajon Rondo, sources said, but a third team could sweeten the Celtics package beyond the core of Rondo and Green.
In case you were wondering, yes, that’s the same Rondo Celtics boss Danny Ainge professed love for late last week and said he was not interested in trading. (We told you this stuff changes by the hour.)
But let’s not lose our focus here. Paul is the linchpin in today’s scenario, and if landing him makes a team more attractive to Howard (potentially in free agency), then snagging Paul now is the ultimate coup for a team trying to make itself a title contender for the foreseeable future.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard have their own version of this story, with subtle tweaks of their own. They identify Clippers guard Eric Gordon and Warriors guard Curry as the players most coveted by the Hornets:
But the Hornets continue to meet with resistance from the Warriors and the Clippers on Curry and Gordon, sources told ESPN.com, because both teams are reluctant to part with their young backcourt cornerstones with no assurance from Paul that he will stay beyond this season.
Sources said that the Hornets have actually been trying to convince the Warriors to part with Curry since before last season’s trade deadline in February. But the Warriors could only stomach the inclusion of Curry if they knew Paul would extend his contract as part of the trade or at least commit to invoking his option for the 2012-13 season. Golden State has still received no such promises.
The Clippers, meanwhile, have been aggressive in their pursuit of Paul, but sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com‘s Ramona Shelburne that neither Gordon nor restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan have been offered to New Orleans.
Said one source close to the situation of Gordon’s inclusion: “That’s a deal-breaker (for the Clippers).”
And you thought the lockout had some twists and turns. This Paul drama is just in the warm-up stages if indeed it is the Hornets’ plan to come to a quick decision about what to do with the face of their franchise. And by quick, we mean by the start of training camp and free agency on Friday.
The Rockets, Mavericks and Magic are all trying to make plays for Paul as well. And it’s a phenomenon most players realize is going to be the norm now, at least where superstar players are concerned. One of Paul’s closest friends, Hornets backup point guard Jarrett Jack, said as much to The Times Picayune:
“Right now this is the hot topic, and this is something every player goes through when he’s in the last year of his deal. When (Oklahoma City Thunder forward) Kevin Durant is in the last year of his deal and he hasn’t signed an extension yet, he’s going to go through it. If (Bulls point guard) Derrick Rose doesn’t sign an early extension, he’s going to go through it.
“All of these top-caliber players are going to go through it, it’s the end of their contract. When they feel it’s necessary to sign an extension or play it out through free agency or whatever, that’s the process you go through.”
Stay tuned, and do your best to stay awake … because things are guaranteed to change plenty before this is all over.