NEW ORLEANS (AP) -If Chris Paul had any regrets about last season, it was how his rising stardom made fans in New Orleans a little paranoid they might lose him to a wealthier team in a bigger city.
Paul said he constantly ran into fans who were aware he had only one season left on his rookie contract and told him, ``We hope you don't leave.''
``I truly love this city, everything about it,'' Paul said. ``I never had any plans to leave, contrary to what people may have believed.''
Those who hoped the All-Star point guard would remain with the Hornets can relax now.
New Orleans formally announced Paul's contract extension on Wednesday, the first day under NBA rules teams were allowed to publicly discuss offseason roster moves.
l four years, the total value of the contract would be about $68 million, Young said.
Paul's affinity with New Orleans was not the only factor in his decision, however. The Hornets offered Paul a five-year deal, but Paul was not ready to commit to that because of uncertainty about the future of other prominent players on the squad.
Fellow All-Star David West is under contract for only three more seasons and center Tyson Chandler for two more. Byron Scott, the NBA coach of the year, recently signed a new contract for only the next two seasons.
``It's all about winning, to tell you the truth,'' Paul said.
Last season, Paul led the NBA with averages of 11.6 assists and 2.7 steals. He was the Hornets' second-leading scorer at 21.1 points per game and helped the Hornets reach a franchise-record 56 regular-season victories. He has since been selected to play for Team USA next month at the Olympics in China.
Paul's performance, complemented by his efforts to aid New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina, may have saved pro basketball in a city that was in danger of losing its pro teams after the devastating storm struck in August 2005.
Sellouts became the norm during the second half of last season and the playoffs.
Marketing Paul as the face of their franchise, the Hornets have sold more than 5,000 new season tickets for next season while retaining about 90 percent of last season's season-ticket holders. The Hornets now have about 10,000 season-ticket holders, the most they've had since moving to New Orleans from Charlotte for the 2002-03 season.
The Hornets simply could not afford to let Paul leave. They gave him the maximum pay allowable under the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, or about 25 percent of the league's salary cap in 2009-10, followed by 10 percent raises each year after that.
Hornets majority owner George Shinn summed up Paul's value by recalling something Hall-of-Famer Bob Pettit said about Paul's play-making ability while sitting in one of Shinn's court-side seats during the playoffs in May.
``He said, 'Tyson Chandler should rent a limousine and have Chris Paul brought to every game,''' Shinn recalled.
``You know, when you think about that, some of the other players should chip in,'' Shinn added. ``This guy has been a tremendous asset to this whole organization.''
Shinn then turned to Paul and said, ``Chris, we are not just proud, we are honored to have you as the face and the future of our franchise.''
With Paul locked in for at least the next four seasons, the Hornets hope to land some key free agents.
Their top target appears to be James Posey, who has played on championship teams in both Miami and Boston. Posey's agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Posey is mulling offers from several teams. The Hornets also have expressed interest in Jarvis Hayes, who played for the Detroit Pistons last season, said Hayes' agent, Mitch Butler.
The Hornets also hope to bring back reserve point guard Jannero Pargo, who also is represented by Bartelstein.
``We've had some pretty strong discussion and strong dialogue with a large number of prospects,'' said Hornets general manager Jeff Bower, who declined to mention any players' names.
Paul said he hasn't reached out on his own to any prospective free agents, but added he had confidence Bower and Scott would do what is necessary to improve a team that came within a victory of advancing to last season's Western Conference finals.
``I know our front office is doing an outstanding job of shopping out there, seeing what's going on. They're not sitting down, waiting to see what happens,'' Paul said. ``They keep me informed. They know I want to know what's going on.''

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