VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE: Paul relishes chance
Of all the players in the Vegas Summer League, Chris Paul might be facing the most pressure.
The former Wake Forest point guard was the highest pick in the recent NBA Draft who played in the league, going fourth to New Orleans. And with the Hornets needing immediate help -- their 18-64 record last season was the worst in the Western Conference -- Paul won't have the luxury of growing into the job.
"I see it as a great opportunity," Paul said. "I've always been on a winning team, and I want to take the team to new heights."
Paul made his presence felt at Cox Pavilion, averaging 11.8 points with a team-high 22 assists in four games (he missed one game because of a sprained wrist). He scored 13 points Thursday in an 87-73 loss to Detroit as the Hornets finished 1-4 in the league.
"I didn't see that big a difference here," Paul said in comparing college basketball to the NBA. "The defenses are a little more complex. Offensively, I'm doing the same things I did in college."
Paul played two years at Wake Forest before turning pro and was a consensus All-American as a sophomore. He led the Demon Deacons to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 in 2004, and in 2005 they lost in the second round to West Virginia 111-105 in double overtime in one of the best college games of the season.
"The game is still such a blur to me," said Paul, who scored 22 points before fouling out in the second overtime. "The only thing I remember was how hard it was in the locker room afterward saying goodbye to the seniors."
He knew the game was probably his last at Wake Forest. Paul was being touted as a lottery pick, and he talked to many people about his realistic chances of being selected early.
"The NBA is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you always want to compete against the best," he said. "If you're top-five, you've got to go. I don't know that I would have gone any higher had I stayed at Wake."
So he left, and now he has a seven-figure contract and endorsement deals with Nike and Upper Deck. More opportunities are sure to follow if he helps turn around the Hornets.
Paul has a plan to deal with the temptations of New Orleans. His older brother, C.J., will live with him and oversee his affairs. Paul has no plans to roam Bourbon Street late at night.
"Nah, I'm a homebody," he said. "I'm a quiet person. I don't go out much. Having my brother there with me will help me a lot in adjusting to being on my own."
Although the Hornets struggled in Las Vegas, Paul needed the playing time for his development.
"It helped me tremendously," he said. "It's going to get me ready for training camp. I already know the plays, and I'll be in better shape. I feel like I'm already ahead."
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