Chris Paul said he tries "not to pay attention to any of that different type stuff" but the talk of his future will dominate the season similarly to how it did for his close friend Carmelo Anthony last season.
And just like Melo last year, we're not even into training camp and already reports are surfacing that the New Orleans Hornets are already considering trade scenarios if the all-star point guard decides not to sign a contract extension.
According to a report in the Times-Picayune, the Hornets have held trade talks with the Knicks, Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Clippers. Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday that through his agent, Paul has requested to be traded to the Knicks.
The Celtics, according to multiple reports on Wednesday, appear willing to part with Rajon Rondo, but ESPN's Chris Broussard then heard from a source that said Paul would not sign an extension with the Celtics.
This all sounds too familiar, doesn't it?
The Clippers are an intriguing spot, especially with Blake Griffin's presence. But despite the lure of playing with an incredible athletic talent such as Griffin in a town such as Los Angeles, they still are the Clippers and owned by Donald Sterling, who hardly has a reputation for spending whatever it takes to build -- and maintain -- a winner.
That leaves the Knicks, but right now they are easily eliminated, too.
A year ago, about a month after his famous wedding toast, Paul started to privately suggest he wanted out of New Orleans. We reported here that Donnie Walsh made calls to former GM Jeff Bower and then also reached out to Bower's replacement, Dell Demps. But the Hornets, in the midst of an ownership change, weren't ready to deal.
And the Knicks didn't have a great offer then, either.
Despite having Paul's buddy, Melo, and a dynamic pick-and-roll partner in Amar'e Stoudemire, not to mention the championship ambitions Paul so desperately seeks (way more than the lure of a major market), the Knicks right now still have no legitimate assets to offer the Hornets in a trade.
And the Hornets, currently being run by the NBA, are still in an ownership transition as they wait for a buyer, which may come shortly after the lockout ends.
The worst-kept secret is the interest Paul has in teaming up with Carmelo and Amar'e in New York. But fulfilling the prophecy of his wedding toast may be a lot more difficult that even the effort to get Melo here.
The obvious big piece would be Chauncey Billups' expiring contract, which would help match Paul's salary ($16.3M) in a trade. But after that, there isn't much the Knicks can send to New Orleans -- they don't have their 2012 first round pick (goes to Houston) or much in the form of young talent (Toney Douglas and Landry Fields is not nearly enough and rookie Iman Shumpert is still unproven) to make up for the loss of a superstar player.
New Orleans would probably want the Knicks to take on some money, such as Emeka Okafor's deal, with three years and $40 million left on it. But the Knicks don't have any other contracts to match it and don't have the cap space to absorb Okafor's $12.5M salary this season.
And on top of that, the Hornets, which would be in a massive rebuild at that point, would need to get tons of draft picks back.
With this in mind, don't expect the Hornets to move Paul quickly, but instead, like the Nuggets did with Anthony, this will likely play out through the season. Paul holds the leverage of the contract extension just like Carmelo did, so as long as he is determined to land in New York, the Knicks will remain in the game.
In the meantime, expect the Knicks heirarchy to work feverishly to acquire whatever assets they can -- and, perhaps, hope a player like Fields, Douglas or Shumpert develop into a coveted talent -- to upgrade their ability to make a trade. This likely will involve a third team, which is how the Carmelo deal got done.
Yes, the best scenario for the Knicks is to have Paul go into free agency in 2012 and sign him outright so they do not have to give up too many assets. But as Howard Beck of the New York Times explained, in going that route, Paul would have to agree to take $4 million less than his maximum and leave a great deal of money on the table in New Orleans (and elsewhere) to fit him into the salary cap along with Melo and Amar'e.
A trade is the more likely result here.
And so it begins. From the LeBronathon, to the Melopalozza and now, the CP3-for-all.