NBA Rumors: Is Chris Paul Slowly Turning Into LeBron James?

By Brian Chappatta |

There once was a story of a great basketball player who brought great honor to a city and state that was riddled with sports ineptitude.

The people of that state loved this player. They called him "The Chosen One." They said he would stay there forever and make the city glorious once more.

Then that player cruelly turned his back on all the people who loved him and took his talents to South Beach.

This story, of course, is about LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Now here's another story, also about a great basketball player. This player brought hope to a city and state devastated by Hurricane Katrina. He helped in efforts to rebuild the city and earned the people's admiration and trust.

Then rumors started surfacing that he would turn his back on the city that loved him, all in the pursuit of keeping up with the other superstars.

This story, of course, is about Chris Paul and the New Orleans Hornets.

Though New Orleans Hornets general manager Dell Demps and others in the organization were pleased with how Monday's meeting with the franchise's star point guard went, Paul remains hesitant to say he will play in New Orleans forever.

"I stay committed to the city of New Orleans," Paul said, according to . "Everything else we talked about [in Monday's meeting with the club], like Mr. Demps said, we want to keep some of that stuff private."

OK, that means he's committed to playing out the rest of his contract. That doesn't mean anything. He has no choice but to do that, specifically if the Hornets don't want to trade him.

It's the same as when James said "Akron will always be my home," and feigned love for the city of Cleveland. Or maybe it was real.

But when the opportunity arose to leave, LeBron did not hesitate to do so.

And who's to say Paul won't do the same?

The Hornets front office has apparently convinced Paul that they are committed to building a championship contender and want Paul to be the centerpiece of it all.

Nothing for Paul to complain about there; anytime a team is willing to do whatever it takes to build around you, it's a positive.

The thing the Hornets need to be aware of moving forward is whether Paul is trying to help them out in the effort to bring in championship-level talent.

Otherwise, New Orleans will be the new Cleveland.

The Cavaliers did everything they could to give LeBron quality teammates. They brought in Shaquille O'Neal to contend with Dwight Howard. They added Antawn Jamison to be a secondary threat.

However, Cleveland could have had Trevor Ariza if LeBron was willing to commit to the organization. But he was always thinking he would leave Cleveland, perhaps as early as the 2008 Olympics.

So no Ariza, and the Cavaliers had to hastily piece together a team without the backing of their superstar.

A disappointing second-round exit ensued.

Paul and the Hornets are at a critical crossroads. What happens next will determine whether Paul and the Hornets become like Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers or LeBron and the Cavaliers.

It was just a few years ago that Kobe demanded a trade from Los Angeles, nearly going to the Chicago Bulls in the process. But Lakers management promised Kobe that it would build a championship team around him.

With Kobe's help, the Lakers did just that, and are now repeat champions.

If Paul devotes himself to the Hornets like Kobe did to the Lakers, New Orleans could achieve the same result: Demps is considered a mastermind after his stint with the San Antonio Spurs.

However, it is equally possible that Paul has aligned himself too closely with James, and now LeBron's crew is trying to influence Paul in an attempt to further tighten their grip on the NBA's power structure

It's not too late for Paul to make the right choice; the choice that suddenly made Kobe more loved throughout the country than LeBron.

Paul has done too much good in New Orleans to turn his back on it. He has the commitment from his organization that the Hornets will be championship contenders soon.

But as the league learned from the Lebron saga, a one-way commitment is not enough. Having a player hold a team hostage is not the way to win an NBA title.

It's up to Paul now. It's his decision.

Let's just hope two years from now, he won't put us through another "The Decision."

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