NEW ORLEANS -- Chris Paul and Reggie Bush brought life and purpose to the Hornets and Saints as the two teams returned to the city one after the other following Hurricane Katrina's unexpected detour of both franchises.
|Bush helped the Saints to their first Super Bowl win earlier this year. (Getty Images)|
Now, they've joined the ever-growing fraternity that should be deemed "The Crooked Athletes Club." Would you expect any place else to look for crooked athletes other than New Orleans or Louisiana, considering its history for crooked politics? Didn't think so.
The comparisons of the circumstances involving Paul and Bush on the surface are innately different. But once you swim through the illegal benefits and the exit strategies, numerous underlying components run parallel in either case.
Greed and selfishness. Ill-advised associates and collateral damage. A one-sided positive result which favors the individual athlete.
It has been reported for months by CBSSports.com that trade rumors swirled around Paul. Fans threw stones at the Hornets for even contemplating such a deal. Now with the report that Paul and his newfound cronies have been doing the dirty work for him and devising an exit plan to push the Hornets' hand, the perception of the fun-loving Paul has changed locally and nationally.
Hornets coach Monty Williams said at Tuesday's introductory press conference of new general manager Dell Demps that Paul was being "picked apart a bit" by all the trade speculation and that it wasn't right.
Perhaps Williams should have heard Paul's comment's nearly three hours earlier at a basketball camp Paul held at Tulane.
Paul, of course, pushed camp organizers to mandate that the media ask him only questions concerning his involvement in the camp. Rightfully so, that didn't happen. And Paul dismissed a question asked about if the plan Demps presented was workable.
Paul said there would be a later time to discuss everything that was discussed during the meeting and refused to address trade rumors.
A camper even asked Paul earlier that morning if he was going to play in Miami with his buddies LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
Paul's response? "Next question."
Paul also was asked that if avoiding questions about his future fosters the notion that he wants to play elsewhere. His response: "I'm answering the questions all about the camp. That's what I'm here for."
Maybe the most interesting response came when Paul was asked if he was concerned about the perception by Hornets fans, considering the constant barrage of reports that he's ready to turn his back on New Orleans. And when I say interesting, I mean damning.
Paul hesitated for a couple of seconds and said, "One thing I've learned, to tell you the truth, ... is that you have to be who you are. The people that know me know I am who I am. I have a wonderful family who love and care for me and I'm going to continue to be the same person that I am."
A reporter later asked considering how many stories have been written quoting people close to Paul, why wasn't Tuesday a good time to answer those questions and clear the air.
|Since being drafted fourth overall in 2005, Paul has made it to three All-Star teams. (Getty Images)|
Then Paul was also asked this: "Of the close people in your inner basketball circle, has anything from them that's been said about you that hasn't been true in the last couple of weeks?"
"Not that I know of," Paul said. "I'm with my family every day. I can't control those types of things."
Fill in the blanks here. Nothing has changed through all the positive spin Paul and the Hornets attempted to weave during Monday's meeting with the media. Nothing. Paul still wants out. If he didn't, he would have said, "I don't want to be traded."
That never happened. That was by design.
Paul's non-denial rings similar to Bush's non-denial in a column on CBSSports.com when Bush spoke following the NCAA's heavy-handed ruling slammed down on USC because of Bush's acceptance of illegal benefits.
When asked point blank by CBSSports.com if he had ever broken any NCAA rules while he was at USC following the Saints' final organized team activity, Bush replied, "It's hard for ... I can't get into specifics of what's going on. Like I said I'd love to. I could sit here for days and get into specifics of what's going on. But obviously I can't."
Bush's USC fiasco seemingly has died down. USC is on probation. The school sent back its copy of the Heisman Trophy. Current USC coach Lane Kiffin is still a worm. Bush still has made millions of dollars while leaving a football program he holds dear in shambles. And USC wants nothing to do with Bush.
Status quo, right? Nope.
As much as Bush's blatant spitting in the face of the NCAA rules may have felt like last month's news, considering how the NBA's newest black eye still plays in New Orleans, Bush's past transgressions may have one-upped even Paul's antics on Tuesday.
Because of Bush's greased palms, BCS executive director Bill Hancock said USC's 2004 national championship likely will be vacated if the school loses its NCAA appeal.
It's really the last piece of Bush's tenure at USC that can be stripped away and thrown in the trash. It's going to be the most painful of them all as well.
I will give Bush this. He at least feels remorse even though he may never admit ever doing anything wrong.
"For the people who say ... well I've heard people say that I don't really care about this too much and I just brush it off my shoulders. Those people don't know me," Bush said in June. "Because this thing regarding USC and the NCAA is to me the closest thing to death without dying ... It sucks because like I said I have such a strong love and passion for USC. It's almost like shaming your Dad in a sense."
Paul comes off like he doesn't.
It's one of the reasons why Bush is still endeared at least in New Orleans, while Paul is following down the LeBron path of no return into being vilified everywhere (except for his next team).
That may be the only difference.