Did Paul Make a Mistake Re-Signing?
Flash forward seven months from now. Teams are rife with cap space, even under a substantially lowered cap. Friends of yours are all traveling to different teams, finding which team is the best fit financially, personally, and most importantly, in terms of playing for a contender. The world is their oyster. There is nothing but possibility and with the right decision, they'll walk away not only even more obscenely rich than they were before, but in a better situation to put the ring on their finger.
Meanwhile, you're staring at another two and a half seasons watching Peja Stojakovic and James Posey slowly turn into the bad guy from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade after drinking from the wrong cup and being coached by the GM that shackled your team with huge contracts for mid-level players.
Welcome to the life of Chris Paul.
Take a look at this photo taken at the press conference announcing Paul's extension in 2008. There's Byron Scott, the proud papa, reaching out to his young All-Star. In that same article, Paul is actually quoted saying, "I think we're going to be fine for the future." Today, with the proud papa kicked out of the house, the All-Star fuming during games while his teammates deny him assist after assist, things could not seem more different.
When Paul signed that extension, the Hornets were coming off of a seven-game run at the Spurs which they led the Western Conference final 3-2 at one point. They had Paul, Tyson Chandler, and David West, along with Jannero Pargo for instant points and Julian Wright, the high-potential project. Sure, Peja would probably slow down as he got older, but really, the Hornets were just a few pieces away.
Then came the rather mediocre 2008-09 campaign followed by a beatdown from the Denver Nuggets (which was actually barred in some theaters in the Midwest due to excessive violence upon a basketball team's dignity). Now Paul is coachless, hopeless and watching his friends Dwyane Wade and LeBron James compete for championships AND have the option to go elsewhere, while he has neither option.
Paul's decision to re-sign was largely based on loyalty and faith in the franchise. A franchise which has chosen poor long-term planning and non-aggressive moves over seriously committing to building a championship for its star. Paul was heavily involved in the rebuilding efforts in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and -- as was evidenced by his role in the 2008 All-Star festivities -- was more than just a good player for New Orleans but also the face of the city. The Hornets will never be as big as the Saints, but during that 2008 run, the city was behind that team 100 percent. New Orleans looked like a viable market with a great team, great coaching and one of the top five players in the league.
How eerily similar is this to Kevin Garnett's run with Sam Cassell and Latrell Sprewell? Will Paul end up in the same scenario, not wanting to betray the fans but dying of defeat in a small market while his friends thrive under bigger, brighter lights?
If the world were fair, Paul's allegiance to his franchise in signing early, avoiding all the distractions that come with impending free agency and making a serious commitment to the city would be rewarded with competent management, great surrounding talent and the opportunity to win championships. And that's certainly what it looked like two years ago.
But the world is not fair. It is a cruel, vicious Lakers fan that thinks Paul should have watched out for his own self -- and is now punishing him for that loyalty.
While Byron Scott is packing his office and weighing his options for the future, Paul is dealing with not only what's shaping up as a losing season but also the choice between sticking by the city that loves him and the franchise that he believed ... or the reality that if he wants to take full advantage of his talent and reach all of his goals, he may need to act the malcontent and force a move elsewhere.
It's terrifying how quickly life can turn on you.