Q. Is Chris Paul coming to the Knicks? I see where everyone is saying yes and then they're writing it can't happen. Which is it?
— Al, Bensonhurst, N.Y.
A. OK, first let's cut to the chase. Paul has the right to opt out of his contract next summer. So he can go anywhere he pleases then.
The greater questions are:
How willing is he to leave money on the table?
Is he willing to wait until next summer?
In order for Paul to get to New York as a free agent next summer, he will have to take less than the maximum, far less, with New York unable to restructure the deals of Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony.
But keep in mind that LeBron James, Chris Bosh and especially Dwyane Wade took significantly less than the maximum to sign with the Heat in July 2010. There is a precedent.
In order for Paul to get to New York earlier, the Hornets would have to be amenable to a sign-and-trade, and that raises two other questions:
What could the Knicks possibly offer in a trade?
And would the current league ownership or new owners of the Hornets be willing to trade the franchise's star attraction?
As for the Knicks putting together a package, there simply isn't anything there of note. You don't trade a Chris Paul for Landry Fields. It would have to take some creative multi-team maneuvering to make it work in a trade. (Based on his injury history, I'm not even sure the Hornets would take Stoudemire.)
And then there is the issue of the Hornets trading away the heart of the franchise. There is no way the NBA can go from arguing about the need for parity and then, as de facto owners of the Hornets, send Paul to the Knicks. Beyond that, the first question the NBA might ask any prospective new owner is whether they would trade Paul. While the NBA certainly couldn't make it a condition of a sale, you can bet they would prefer an owner who will do everything possible to retain the All-Star point guard.
Yet getting beyond all the aforementioned questions, there is the simple reality that if Paul does leave, who's to say it has to be to New York?
The Clippers should have ample cap space to offer a max-level contract next summer. And there are many teams who could come up with attractive packages for Paul, with those Russell Westbrook rumors receiving plenty of play in the offseason.
The Pacers and Celtics have already made clandestine pitches.
More than anything, it is undeniable that the NBA will have another Carmelo-like will-he-or-won't-he type of situation with Paul at least until the trading deadline.
The new collective-bargaining agreement has done nothing to remove the in-season free-agent drama endured with Carmelo at the start of last season.
Q. At his benefit game and book signing Dwight Howard said a lot of things, but none of them was about staying with the Magic. What does that mean?
— Ed, Kissimmee, Fla.
A. The one thing about both Paul and Howard is they have carried themselves about as well as anyone could expect in their situations, perhaps even better, with each having the right to opt out next summer.
Howard, however, is a far different person than Paul, and his gregarious personality figures to provide more fodder for the rumor mills.
While Paul would appear happy simply to be on a team that can regularly contend, Howard appears very much intrigued by bright lights and big cities. In many ways (and this is not a good thing for Orlando), he is the second-coming to Shaquille O'Neal when it comes to impending free agency.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Just as it appeared those many years back that Shaq was on a fast track to the Lakers, it sure seems the same way this time around with Howard. And with Andrew Bynum available, the Lakers actually could make an attractive offer.
(I'm not buying the Howard-to-Nets rumors, because Brook Lopez hardly has the upside of a franchise center. The more you witness Lopez, the more the limitations become apparent.)
And that's the rub. We have spent these past five months listening to the NBA tell us how imperative it was to creative competitive balance, even if it shaved games from the 2011-12 schedule. Yet here we stand, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh on the Heat, talk in New York of a Carmelo-Amare-Paul trifecta and the possibility of the Lakers atop the West with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Howard.
It will be interesting to see if the NBA manages to "encourage" the Hornets and Magic to possibly pursue other trade partners, should New Orleans and Orlando come to the realization they won't be able to re-sign their stars.
PBT: The Pacers defeated the Heat 97-93 in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1, which now shifts to Indiana.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
DPS: Is it really all about the rings?
DPS: Dan Patrick talks about Phil Jackson's comments about starting a team with Bill Russell now because of his championships and brings up the great question of, if it's all about championships, how come we don't talk about guys like Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey or John Havlicek who all have multiple rings?
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