LeBron James must be stopped. Already he has torpedoed his own image and legacy, going from admired to reviled with The Decision to stop chasing Michael Jordan and to start riding the coattails of D-Wade. Hey, it's LeBron's life, and that was LeBron's decision. King James wants to screw up his own name? Have at it, son.
|They might be friends, but LeBron James isn't doing CP3 any favors right now. (Getty Images)|
I fear it's too late. Oh, screw that. I know it's too late.
Paul is already three steps down LeBron Lane, having joined James' LRMR marketing firm and hooking up with James' Creative Artists Agency and getting public advice on Twitter from James to "do what's best for you," which is exactly what Paul has done. He has pushed the New Orleans Hornets' backs to the wall, where despite holding all the contractual leverage, they are faced with two helpless choices: Keep Paul, and let his suddenly selfish attitude drag down the franchise; or trade Paul, and lose one of the best two point guards in the NBA for something far below market value -- unless the Hornets can swing a deal with Utah for the league's other great point guard, Deron Williams. Which isn't happening.
Which means the Hornets are hosed. They've been backed into a corner by the most unlikely villain in the NBA. See, I know Chris Paul. Or, I knew Chris Paul. Wrote about him in high school in North Carolina. Covered him at Wake Forest. Spent lots of time with him off the court, and he's a real sweetheart.
Now he's under the spell of LeBron, and there's a part of me that gets that. LeBron James is one of the most talented, charismatic players in recent NBA history. He's a leader. And Chris Paul, bless him, is a follower. He grew up the tagalong kid brother to C.J. Paul, a local basketball star in his own right, and when Chris went to Wake Forest he found another leader to follow in veteran guard Justin Gray. In the NBA, Paul turned to his coach with the Hornets, Byron Scott, as his new mentor.
But Byron Scott was fired early last season, and Chris Paul was left without a rudder. That's where LeBron James came into the picture.
They were already friends, but now James was more than that. Within months, Paul had joined forces with James off the floor -- the marketing firm, the sports agent, the mysterious handler World-Wide Wes -- and now, finally, we see the end game.
James wants Chris Paul out of New Orleans.
Despite the picture painted by the Hornets, sources say that Chris Paul won't change his mind. Read >>
And so Paul wants out of New Orleans. Never mind that he's under contract for only two more years, and that he will become a free agent in 2012, weeks after turning 27. Age 27? That's an athlete's prime. But James has whispered into Paul's ear that he needs to get out, and he needs to get out now.
And so as CBSSports.com's Ken Berger first reported, Chris Paul was good enough to give the Hornets a list of three teams where he would like to be traded: the Knicks, Lakers and Magic.
The Lakers have won the past two NBA titles. The Magic were in the 2009 NBA Finals and the 2010 Eastern Conference finals, and with the NBA's best center in Dwight Howard, the Magic will be back to the NBA Finals sooner than later. And those were two of the teams Chris Paul originally wanted to play for? Hey, so do I!
The third team, the Knicks, are merely in the media capital of the world and also 20,000 leagues below the salary cap.
All of this makes Chris Paul unintentionally hilarious. With James' help, he is trying to one-up James for the biggest horse's ass in the NBA. And it's a crying shame, because Chris Paul is better than this. Or he was. He was the classiest young college athlete I've ever spoken to, and I spoke quite a bit to Shane Battier when Battier was at Duke. Since college, Paul has been a godsend to New Orleans, working with Drew Brees of the Saints to give that city, post-Katrina, some sports heroes they can believe in.
And now LeBron James is screwing it up. This isn't all on LeBron, though, because Chris Paul is letting it happen. He's a natural-born follower, like I said, but that doesn't absolve him of responsibility. He's 25. He's smart, he's financially independent and he's athletically wondrous. He doesn't hold as many cards in NBA circles as James, but he's in the top five. He's a power broker unto himself, but rather than use his power for good -- forcing the Hornets into surrounding him with talent -- he's using his power to force himself onto another team where he can win easier.
Just like LeBron did last month when he left Cleveland for Miami.
Apparently this is the NBA's new selfishness. Used to be, selfishness was limited to the court. Allen Iverson shot 30 times a game. Kobe Bryant shot 35.
Now selfishness has evolved from those single-cell protozoan days into the vile, layered organism represented first by LeBron James and now, depressingly, by Chris Paul.
So I'll leave this story with one thought, a line in the sand pointed directly at LeBron James. You listening, King? Here goes:
You already screwed up Chris Paul -- you leave Kevin Durant the hell alone.