||09-29-2010 05:59 PM
CP3 happy at start of training camp
CP3 is a happy Hornet ...... for now
NEW ORLEANS -- As he soaked in his last afternoon of summer freedom, watching Saints-Falcons from his buddy Reggie Bush's Superdome suite, there was only one kind of commotion buzzing in Chris Paul's face.
That would be the whirlwind known as Paul's fast-moving toddler son.
The tempest surrounding Paul's future with the New Orleans Hornets has calmed considerably over the past two months. Which means that taking questions while 16-month-old Chris II paws at his nose is about as frenzied as it gets these days.
It appeared that Paul, back in late July, would be where Carmelo Anthony is now, seeing and hearing his future dissected daily as this season's answer to last season's LeBron-a-thon. Then Paul met face-to-face with his new coach and new general manager, publicly pledged to support Monty Williams and Dell Demps in their attempts to rebuild the Hornets around him and has not wavered from that declaration despite suspicions that won't go away that he wants to be elsewhere.
"It's been funny," Paul said during a brief sit-down during the Saints' overtime loss to their division rivals. "It's been funny to hear all the different things.
"You hear people say this, you hear people say that. For me, I know who I am. I've heard people question my character and my loyalty and stuff like that. The thing that I've learned is [I've] got to be who I am. At the end of the day you can't worry about what everybody's saying about you."
It has helped Paul that the entire league, since mid-August, has been engulfed by the constant coverage of Anthony's tenuous future in Denver, shifting the focus away from Paul speculation that began to bubble after an interview with ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard in June in which the 25-year-old, for the first time, said he'd be open to a trade if the Hornets were not committed to spending what it takes to climb back into the Western Conference elite.
The fact Paul's free-agent summer is two years away -- unlike Anthony's looming free agency in 2011 -- has had an obvious impact, as well. The Nuggets have to seriously explore trading away their franchise player because they know Anthony could walk away from them as soon as July, whereas the Hornets won't face the same urgency until next fall.
Yet you get the sense, even after just a few minutes watching Paul mix with the locals inside a New Orleans institution, that he's prepared to give his bosses an opportunity to change the culture of the Hornets like Demps and Williams -- proud graduates of the San Antonio Spurs' executive training program -- say they will.
Maybe that's more because of Paul's unquestioned love for the city than any bond with the Hornets. He's often credited with saving NBA basketball in the region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and just re-illustrated his commitment to the community by launching an after-school program -- with transportation provided -- to get more New Orleans youngsters more fit and active.
Or maybe it's because he knows, deep down, that he doesn't have Melo's hammer with his opt-out clause not available until 2012.
Either way, Paul has the same answer no matter how you try to ask it: This is where I'm going to be.
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