NEW ORLEANS ― Chris Paul’s world began changing this offseason.
He began work on an after-school program in New Orleans.
His own son started school.
And he got engaged.
But that’s not the only thing that is new for the Hornets’ All-Star point guard.
Add to that list a new head coach, a new general manager and a bevy of new teammates.
Now he’s interested to see how all that molds into what he hopes is success on and off the court.
“What excites me is the unknown, not knowing what to expect,” Paul said Monday during Hornets media day at the Arena. “Anyone who says they know what our team is going to do this season is lying. We made so many changes and adjustments.”
New Orleans begins training camp Tuesday at the Alario Center and it’s there where first-year Head Coach Monty Williams will begin to put his mark on the Hornets’ franchise.
Including the 38-year-old newbie at the helm, New Orleans has a first-year man at general manager (Dell Demps) and 12 new players on an 18-man training camp roster.
That includes guard Jannero Pargo, who returns after a two year hiatus from the team, and Trevor Ariza, a journeyman guard-forward combo with a good reputation around the NBA.
Those players have helped Paul renew his sense of hope that New Orleans is on the right track after a summer-long courtship of teams not named the Hornets.
“Yeah, I’m ready to play,” Paul said. “Everyone is always going to talk and make different inquiries about different things that’s going on, but now it’s time to play.”
The Hornets plummeted from 49-33 in 2008-09 to 37-45 this past season, partly due to the absence of Paul, who missed 37 games with various injuries. Byron Scott was fired in the first month of the season and then-General Manager Jeff Bower took over.
Paul, after watching LeBron James and Chris Bosh make their way to contending teams, tried to force his way out of the Crescent City. But Demps, Williams and team president Hugh Weber convinced him to stick around by saying they were on an upwardly mobile path.
They traded point guard Darren Collison and forward Julian Wright before picking up Ariza and Pargo along with guard Marco Belinelli.
Like Paul, David West is interested to see what this team can do. Already he’s pleased with the front office, if for nothing else than the honesty they’ve shown him.
“In this point in my life and career, there’s no need in terms of figuring where we are, we’ve got to be honest,” said West, who is entering his seventh season. “Guys got to man up and be able to know where we’re starting from and go from there.”
While fans will always compare every team to the Lakers, the Celtics or even the Magic these days, West thinks the team is a lot further down the pecking order.
“We’ve got to get ourselves in the top 10 in the West discussion before we start talking,” West said. “There’s no need to lie or be in this fantasy world of who or what we are. You know what the NBA landscape is. ... It’s going to take a lot of work to get there.”
For Paul, who said Monday he’s completely healthy, the next month is what he has been looking forward to the most of the past few weeks.
After traveling the country to find the best pickup games and workouts available, it’s finally time to play with his new teammates and coaches.
“Going into training camp for the past few years, you knew what to expect,” Paul said. “Tomorrow, we don’t know. It’s kind of exciting. I feel like a rookie all over again, especially after missing all those games (and) now coming in having to learn how to play with certain guys and having to learn a new system and stuff like that.”