Berger: Orlando Magic Among the Contenders in the Chris Paul Sweepstakes, Which Hasn't Ended Despite Indications to Contrary

Just when it looked like it was safe for Orlando Magic fans to wind down their hopes for their team to acquire All-Star point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets, Ken Berger filed this report about his findings after the Hornets' highly publicized meeting with Paul and his agents on Monday. In the meeting, the two parties discussed New Orleans' plans to build a winning team around Paul, and both sides played the sunshine-and-happiness bit afterward. But Berger didn't buy it:

The Hornets succeeded in only one of their goals Monday: ending the public part of this spectacle. The rest of it, up to and including a possible trade that will extricate Paul from the Hornets while salvaging some semblance of value for the organization, will be dealt with behind closed doors.

[....]

According to multiple people within the NBA who are familiar with the Hornets' predicament, Paul's new cadre of power brokers at Creative Artists Agency, led by [Leon] Rose, are continuing to push Paul's exit strategy from New Orleans -- something members of the organization are well aware of and expected.

Additonally, Berger believes the Magic are still in play. His sources say the Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, and New Jersey Nets are "potentially attractive trade partners." Later, he writes that the Hornets think those three teams have more to offer more than the New York Knicks, also believed to be in the hunt, do.

Over the weekend, Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy, who maintains regular contact with team GM Otis Smith, called the Paul rumors "much ado about nothing," while Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse reported that the Magic's unwillingness to take back the costly contract of Emeka Okafor in any deal for Paul will take them out of the running for him.

This report is merely the latest one Berger has filed on Paul this summer; as best I can tell, he was the first writer to link Paul and the Magic, way back on July 1st, when he noted that Magic center Dwight Howard has pushed Magic ownership to pursue Paul.

On Friday, Chris Broussard reported Paul prefers the Magic.

So if you believe both Berger and Broussard, this picture begins to emerge: there's interest on all sides in this potential deal. Paul likes Orlando; Orlando likes Paul; and the Hornets are at least intrigued with the potential pieces the Magic, among other teams, can offer.

Buckle up.

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