WESTWEGO — While Chris Paul darted around a basketball court in a black Hornets practice uniform, the only NBA team for which he has played resumed trade talks for the All-Star guard, opening discussions with anyone who is interested.
“We’re talking about everything. Everything is on the table,” General Manager Dell Demps said Friday.
When asked if he was working with Los Angeles or Houston to resurrect the trade that would have sent the 26-year-old Paul to the Lakers but was rejected by the NBA Thursday night, Demps would not say specifically if he was talking to the Lakers.
Although Paul practiced fully and even got in some extra work at the Hornets’ suburban training center, the team did not make him available to speak with reporters.
Demps said he has been given autonomy by the league — which owns the Hornets — to make another trade for the four-time All-Star.
“It would be real easy if Chris signed the extension but the reality is he didn’t sign the extension, so we have to do everything we can for the organization,” Demps said. “I wish he’d stay. I’m not going to lie about it.
“We love Chris. Chris is an incredible person here, not only to our organization but to the community,” Demps added. “We’re doing everything possible that we can to keep Chris here. We offered Chris a contract extension and Chris said that he’s not ready to sign an extension at this time. We always knew that there was a possibility that this day would happen and we are taking every step and every measure that we possibly can to bring a team here to New Orleans that represents the city so we can have the best team out here on the court.”
The Hornets had established the framework of a three-team deal that would have sent Lamar Odom to New Orleans and Pau Gasol to Houston. The deal also would have sent Luis Scola, Kevin Martin and Goran Dragic from the Rockets to New Orleans, along with a 2012 first-round draft choice.
“Since that deal did not go through, we’re going to keep plugging away and see if we can get a deal for the team,” Demps said.
The Hornets were disappointed the deal was not approved.
“Of course, Dell and Monty (Williams) were very upset when everything fell through,” said a person familiar with the work the general manager and coach had put into negotiations that led to the proposed trade. “They had spent a lot of time on it and they thought it was a great deal for the team.”
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the sensitivity of the situation.
Speaking after Friday evening’s first practice, Williams deflected questions about Paul’s future, while Paul, just a few feet away, was working on his perimeter shooting.
“Going back and forth with that question is a bit tedious because he is a New Orleans Hornet. That’s my mindset right now, to get him ready to be our starting point guard,” Williams said. “I know it’s weird with all the stuff that’s going around, but I can’t change our routine because of what’s going on around the team.”
Paul is a four-time All-Star who has the ability to walk in free agency after this season. He has so far resisted signing an extension in New Orleans, which has motivated Hornets general manager Dell Demps to try to revamp his roster by trading the star guard.
When the lockout ended, the Hornets had only five players under contract, including Paul. The others were center Emeka Okafor, forward Trevor Ariza, forward Quincy Pondexter and point guard Jarrett Jack. They all reported to camp on time.
Also returning for training camp was forward Patrick Ewing Jr., who was on the squad late last season but played sparingly.
Jack said he was with Paul Thursday night and that Paul, a friend since both players were around 12 years old, did not seem so much upset as confused about the uncertainty surrounding his status with the Hornets.
“I don’t think he feels any type of way about being here or not. It was just, ‘Am I traded? Am I not traded? Is it until tomorrow?”’ Jack said. “It was just a state of confusion and going through something that we’ve never heard of before. I’ve never heard of anything like that.”
Jack said Hornets players, including Paul, are taking the uncertainty in stride and being “professional about it.”
“He’s a New Orleans Hornets until we hear otherwise. ... He was here at practice, gave it his all, came in here and was the same old player that he always is, going hard and leading by example,” Jack said. “He only knows what’s best for him, where he can ultimately be successful and he hasn’t come out and said this couldn’t be a place like that. I know the front office is working diligently to make some signings to make his comfort level increase and if that happens I’m sure he’ll be more than welcome to be vocal and say this is a place for him.
“And if not, then he’ll explore his options.”
Meanwhile, at Miami Heat training camp, another friend of Paul — Dwyane Wade — said he could only imagine what the Hornets guard was going through.
“We all understand it’s a stressful situation for him,” Wade said. “Hopefully it gets resolved soon. He can just focus on the game of basketball and move on. It’s crazy right now. For me to watch TV, it’s crazy, so I know for him to be in it, it’s got to be bananas.”
AP sportswriter Tim Reynolds in Miami contributed to this report.