LeBron James may have followed Dwyane Wade to Miami, but Chris Paul is looking to follow James' lead to New York.
Reports continue to surface about the All-Star point guard's desire to play for the Knicks, with a plan to add Carmelo Anthony and join Amar'e Stoudemire to form a triple-threat team to rival LeBron, Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat.
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The Knicks are very aware of Paul's interest - according to a report by CBSSports.com, the Knicks top a list of Paul's preferred destinations - but at this point, they can do nothing about it until the New Orleans Hornets indicate they are ready to make a move.
Paul is expected to meet with new Hornets general manager Dell Demps and new coach Monty Williams next week to discuss the future, according to a report by ESPN. Demps and Williams will try to convince Paul to stick it out, at least until his opt-out comes in 2012, but it is believed that Paul already has made up his mind.
"It's clear he wants out of there," an NBA executive said.
On July 11, Newsday was the first to report that Paul told guests at Anthony's wedding in New York City about his plan to team with Anthony and Stoudemire "and form our own Big Three," multiple witnesses said.
But with two years left on Paul's contract, the Hornets aren't under any pressure to do anything right away. They certainly don't need to give him away, as the Grizzlies did with Pau Gasol in 2008. It is more likely that this will carry into the season; it might not be resolved until the February trade deadline or, perhaps, next summer.
The Knicks have been monitoring Paul's situation in New Orleans for months, and Donnie Walsh made a call to former Hornets GM Jeff Bower in May to gauge the chances of making a deal. Bower was open to talking concepts, according to a source, but it did not go beyond that because such major decisions couldn't be made in the midst of a complicated ownership transfer between George Shinn and Gary Chouest. Walsh now will need to touch base with Demps and see where the new regime is with the situation, especially after Demps meets with Paul.
With the previous regime, Walsh had only salary-cap relief and unheralded young players such as Wilson Chandler and Toney Douglas to offer. The Knicks now have an intriguing young talent in Anthony Randolph, a former LSU standout, to sweeten the pot. They might have to consider giving up Danilo Gallinari, although it is believed that definitely would make Walsh pause. The Knicks can't trade newly signed point guard Raymond Felton until Dec. 15.
There is a danger in overpaying for Paul and losing out on Anthony, which is what makes this situation very complicated. Pat Riley had the benefit of recruiting star free agents who were ready to leave their home teams and setting up the roster so the Heat could accommodate all three stars. Walsh would have to add two via trades with teams that, at this point, have no interest in trading their star players.
The Knicks also are aware that the Spurs' Tony Parker, who will become a free agent next summer, has expressed an interest in coming to New York.
A source with knowledge of the situation between Anthony and the Nuggets says the team still strongly believes he will take the three-year, $65-million extension he has been offered to stay in Denver. The issue at hand involves the expiration of the current collective-bargaining agreement and the fear that Anthony could wind up losing money if he opts for free agency just as the NBA goes into a lockout. But those close to Anthony say the idea of playing in New York is compelling enough to make him hesitate to lock himself in with Denver.
Anthony's agent is Leon Rose, who also represents James and, through a new deal with James' LRMR Marketing and Branding company, now advises Paul. LRMR, which is bankrolled by James and run by James' business partner, Maverick Carter, signed Paul away from mega-agency Octagon earlier this month.
James may have spurned the Knicks this summer, but he could play a part in directing another star their way.
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