Bradley Handwerger / Sports Reporter
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WESTWEGO, La. ― Chris Paul returned to the Alario Center on Thursday for the first time since the NBA lockout ended this past weekend.

But if you were to read various news reports about Paul's future in New Orleans, you'd be wondering why he was on the westbank and not in New York or Orlando or Los Angeles.

Not that Paul listens.

'Just rumors,' the All-Star point guard said. 'You can't control it. It's always going to happen. It's part of the game. I'm just happy to be back with my team.'

His team, for now, consists of five players under contract Paul, forward Trevor Ariza, forward Quincy Pondexter, center Emeka Okafor and guard Jarrett Jack. And only Paul, Ariza and Pondexter were at Thursday's workout.

With players unable to speak with coaches and management until the new collective bargaining agreement is ratified, it could be up to Paul to recruit players to New Orleans.

That could mean as much as just speaking with those Hornets who are free agents, including forward David West.

'I think our most important thing right now is trying figure out what guys like D West are doing, too,' Paul said. 'That's like a brother to me. I've never played a season without him. Trying to communicate with him as much as possible. '

Asked if West had indicated where he would end up, Paul said they 'talk about other things.

'He had a tough season with his injury,' Paul said. 'That's what he's focused on right now. At the end of the day, he's going to do what's best for him and his family.'

Still, Thursday's main questioning concerned Paul's future in New Orleans. He has two years remaining on his contract, but can opt out after this season.

The questions won't abate, either, until either he's traded or signs an extension in New Orleans.

'I don't think about it, to tell you the truth,' Paul said. 'I'm just ready to get out here and compete and hoop. This is what I do. I love it.'

He added, 'I have a very tight circle and they know this whole lockout thing's been driving me nuts so I'm just happy to get out on the court and compete. This is the way that I express myself by playing basketball so I can't wait to get out there.'

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