Not long after it started, the rumor that Chris Paul wants the New Orleans Hornets to trade him to the Orlando Magic appears to be dying. To be clear, there's little dispute that Paul wants to come to Orlando. What's becoming more evident as the days progress, however, is the likelihood of the Hornets dealing him anywhere is remote.
For instance, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel published this story in this morning's paper, quoting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy as saying the Paul-to-the-Magic rumors are "much ado about nothing."
Later today, Tim Povtak reported that the Magic are likely reluctant to take back the contract of Emeka Okafor--which the Hornets would like to unload in any deal for Paul--even if the deal ultimately nets them the league's top point guard:
Unless the Magic could find a third team to take Okafor – and the four-years, $52 million left on his contract -- his inclusion would hinder any potential trade talks.
If the Magic had Okafor on the roster, it would give them four contracts at or near the NBA maximum, crippling them deep in the luxury tax for many years.
For example, their payroll through the 2012-13 would include Rashard Lewis ($23 million), Dwight Howard ($19 million), Paul ($17 million) and Okafor ($13 million).
The issue isn't that Okafor's a bad player; he's actually quite good, especially defensively. But adding his salary would mean the Magic would have $32 million tied up in two centers who can't play together. It's a valid concern.
There's also the issue of how much leverage Paul has, which is to say he has none. Because he does not have a no-trade clause, and because he won't become a free agent for two more seasons, he is at New Orleans' mercy. An NBA source I consulted reiterated that point, and also advised against listening to anything William "Worldwide Wes" Wesley, believed to be guiding Paul behind the scenes, says. The source also expressed his belief that the Hornets' new GM, Dell Demps, will find a way to clear salary to make staying in New Orleans more palatable to Paul. Demps cut his teeth in the San Antonio Spurs' well-regarded organization, "most recently as vice president of basketball operations," according to the Associated Press report of the Hornets' hiring him.