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There is, however, still the question of Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

The Lakers are widely reported to be interested in acquiring the Magic center, another All-Star expected to move before signing a long-term deal. Unlike Paul, Howard has made no secret of his affection for Los Angeles.

If the Hornets are unable to figure out a trade for Paul, he would be able to opt out of his current contract after the upcoming season.

Speaking earlier Thursday, Hornets president Hugh Weber said the franchise has been preparing for months for the possibility that Paul would resist signing an extension in New Orleans, a move that would leave the Hornets with the choice of trading him or simply letting him walk in free agency at the end of the season.

“We’ve been preparing for this moment for over a year, and it’s not like we were surprised or caught flat-footed,” Weber said. “This is not a surprise. This is not something where we’ve been sitting around waiting to see what would happen. We’ve been managing this and taking control of the situation as best we can and we’re going to have a team that we believe achieves that objective of making this community proud.”

Paul, 26, averaged 15.8 points and 9.8 assists last season.

Despite the lockout and uncertainty over Paul’s future, fan support has been building in New Orleans, where the team has advertised its season-ticket drive as an effort to lure a permanent local buyer who is committed to keeping the team in Louisiana.

The Hornets have increased their season ticket base from a little more than 6,000 last season to 10,019 as of Thursday afternoon.

Paul was drafted by the Hornets fourth overall out of Wake Forest in 2005.

He has been selected to the Western Conference All-Star squad the past four seasons and also was a member of the United States’ Olympic gold medal-winning team in Beijing in 2008.

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AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Los Angeles contributed to this report.