The Boston Celtics have reportedly “relentlessly pursued” Chris Paul, exploring eight different scenarios that would bring Paul to Boston, including several possibilities that include a third team to sweeten the package.
Considering that Stephen Curry and Eric Gordon, two New Orleans Hornets favorites, are expected to be off limits, Yahoo!’s Adrian Wojnarowski is now saying what I’ve thought all along: The Celtics current offer “could be the most attractive to the Hornets.”
ESPN’s Marc Stein and Chris Broussard also believe the Celtics are at or near the lead for Paul:
It has been evident since Monday that the Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers are New Orleans’ preferred trade partners, but one source close to the process told ESPN.com that talks between Golden State and New Orleans have gone “dormant” because of the Warriors’ refusal to make Curry part of the deal without an assurance from Paul that he will stay beyond this season as opposed to bolting as a free agent in July 2012. Clippers guard Eric Gordon is the other player New Orleans covets in a Paul deal on par with Curry, but L.A. has likewise insisted all week that Gordon is a “deal breaker,” as one source put it.
Various executives believe that the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are thus the two most likely landing spots for Paul, but sources with knowledge of New Orleans’ thinking said late Wednesday that the Hornets are prepared to wait for offers to improve, convinced that they they’re getting low-ball proposals at this early stage of the process based on the external belief that they’re so motivated to move Paul they will rush into a deal.
The Celtics, sources say, are currently presenting the strongest offer, which featuresRajon Rondo, Jeff Green and two first-round picks. As the Paul pursuer most willing to trade for the All-Star point guard with zero assurance that Paul will stay beyond this season, Boston is also trying to concoct multi-team scenarios that would help the Hornets come away with the package they desire for Paul, featuring at least one established veteran to help them stay relevant, one up-and-coming talent and draft picks.
The Hornets’ interest in Rondo is lukewarm at best, but one scenario in circulation would involve the Indiana Pacers and route former Hornets point guard Darren Collison back to New Orleans and land Rondo with the Pacers and Paul with the Celtics. Yet several other players would have to be involved to make such a deal work — with more established talent going to New Orleans — and there was no indication Wednesday that such a deal was close to completion.
Although sources say Paul continues to express no interest in a long-term stay in Boston, Celtics GM Danny Ainge is apparently convinced that trading for Paul now to try to make one more title run with the aging star trio of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett andRay Allen is a no-brainer gamble. With the contracts of Garnett and Allen expiring at season’s end, Boston would have sufficient salary-cap space to not only try to retain Paul but also pursue a second young superstar to play with him.
In case you’re scoring at home: The Hornets are now believed to want Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon and/or Darren Collison in return for Paul, but they are “lukewarm” about the prospect of adding a 25-year old, two-time All-Star who has made the NBA’s All-Defensive First-Team each of the past two seasons, already won one championship, has been the Celtics’ best player in each of the past three postseasons, and tends to raise his play during big games.
At this point, I think it’s entirely possible the Hornets are leaking false rumors to entice Danny Ainge to sweeten Boston’s offer. At the very least, the Hornets’ reported lack of respect for Rondo is curious.