New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul talks to the media...

New Orleans Hornets guard Chris Paul talks to the media during a voluntary basketball workout at the team's practice facility in Westwego, La. (Dec. 1, 2011) Credit: AP

This was always going to be perceived as a futile pursuit. The game had changed so much on many levels -- new CBA rules, less assets -- that all parties involved knew the only way to get Chris Paul to New York would be via free agency.

In fact, that was always supposed to be the method.

And when Chris Paul -- yes, when -- is traded by the New Orleans Hornets, the Knicks still remain an option because he will opt out of his contract after this season. This is why teams such as the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Clippers and the Houston Rockets (a new team in the mix, we're told, willing to give up anyone on the roster) are taking a gamble.

But the scenario that should scare the Knicks most involves Chris Paul on the Madison Square Garden court on Christmas morning.

Wait, you say, isn't that what we want?

Not this scenario.

As has been widely reported, Boston Celtics GM Danny Ainge is willing to go all-in for Paul, which includes dangling Rajon Rondo. That's a serious risk for Ainge to give up a young all-star guard in Rondo without any guarantee that Paul will re-sign. But maybe that also shows you just how much the Celtics are ready to part ways with Rondo, who is a tremendous talent but also reportedly a major league pain for Doc Rivers and Co. to deal with on a daily basis.

They'd love Paul in Boston for many reasons. For one, adding an in-his-prime star to a roster loaded with post-prime stars would give the aging Celtics at least one more shot at a championship before this era ends, while having a young star to build around in the transition. But don't overlook another reason: to block the Knicks from getting him. Yes, there is a lot of Red Auerbach in Danny Ainge's thinking.

The C's would have the upper hand in re-signing Chris Paul because, by NBA rules regarding Larry Bird Rights (what a coincidence), they could offer him the most years (five), highest raises (7.5 percent) and, therefore, the most money.

Is the dream that was born from a toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding in July 2010 over? Not until he signs beyond this season. If Paul wants to be a Knick, he can be. But the Hornets are under no obligation to grant his wish.

What this causes for the Knicks, however, is a year of uncertainty. They could use their Mid-Level Exception now to improve the roster, but as long as Paul is still an option next summer, they probably won't agree to any contracts -- aside from Iman Shumpert's rookie deal -- that are guaranteed beyond this season.

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