Williams expects guard Paul to stay

WESTWEGO, La. -- Monty Williams would rather not contemplate making his NBA head coaching debut without Chris Paul.

So with trade talks intensifying as they often do in the final days before the NBA draft, Williams made it clear on Tuesday that he expects his new employers to turn down whatever offers they get for their biggest star.

"Chris was the main thing that excited me about this job," Williams said after a pre-draft workout Tuesday at the Hornets' suburban training center. "So many people are begging for a point guard. You're talking about the best one in the game. I couldn't envision being here without Chris."

The Hornets have the 11th overall pick in Thursday night's draft and likely could move up if they decided to deal their three-time All-Star.

Meanwhile, those teams which plan to pursue LeBron James in free agency might enhance their chances of success by trading for Paul.

Paul and James are close friends who spend a lot of time together in the offseason and were teammates on the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that won gold in Beijing.

When James premiered his documentary, "More Than A Game," in Akron, Ohio, last year, Paul was on hand to help promote it.

Hornets general manager Jeff Bower said he has received many calls about possible trades but declined to specify which teams, or how many, inquired about Paul.

"I'm not going to comment on rumors, regardless of confirming them or denying them or saying how believable or unbelievable they are because it's something that's going to be there all throughout the free-agent process," Bower said. "We have a duty to listen and have dialogue with teams about all of our players ... and our job is to be aware of the interest in every player in this league, not only other [teams'] players, but our own."

The Hornets' uncertain ownership situation could be playing a role in other clubs' pursuit of Paul as well.

When Hornets owner George Shinn reached an agreement in early May to sell his shares to minority partner Gary Chouest, it appeared that the franchise would be on stronger financial footing.

Now the sale of the team to Chouest is on hold. Team president Hugh Weber said recently that uncertainty caused by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has contributed to delays in the transaction because Chouest and many of his business partners work in the oil industry. Chouest owns a company that designs, builds and operates supply vessels for companies operating offshore oil platforms in the Gulf and around the world.

With the Hornets' ownership situation in flux, other clubs are reaching out to test Shinn's interest in being relieved of his financial obligation to Paul, who is entering the second year of a four-year contract worth about $68 million.

Yet, if the Hornets traded Paul, they would risk alienating not just their new coach but also their fans. Paul is not only their most popular player for his showmanship on the court but also for the way he has embraced his community service role during New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

While Bower stopped short of guaranteeing that Paul would be in a Hornets uniform when the 2010-11 season opened, he added, "I can guarantee that we are very much aware of Chris' abilities, skills, talents and what he provides to our community and what he provides to our basketball team -- and we don't take that lightly."