Is Chris Paul the New 2010 Kingpin?
I have never seen an athlete make it as easy to read between the lines as Chris Paul has -- while remaining smiley and slippery throughout it all.
When asked about staying with the Hornets, Paul declared "I just want to make sure we're committed to winning. If we're not committed to winning and trying to get better ... then I'm open to being traded.'' As for going elsewhere, presumably to join with some other superstar (why else bother)? CP3 gave us "I'm watching them try to figure out what they're going to do to put themselves in a position to win championships. I'd love to be a part of that stuff."
What does it all mean? It's pretty simple. "Being committed to winning" means not sucking, and "put[ting] themselves in a position to win championships" means getting a Kevin Garnett-like opportunity to join forces with other grand powers. As Moore suggested, Chris Paul has single-handedly restored Summer 2010 to its former glory.
If, as Eric Freeman noted, we were on the verge of having to settle for a significant, if not apocalyptic, free agency season, Paul changes the stakes.
For one, getting him is separate from cap space. Additionally, he improves whole teams like no one other than James (who never does it like he really could), and if hitched to another All-Star, will help his running buddy more than any one but LBJ (who isn't even in that ballpark).
But back to Paul's words. To me, it suggests an ultimatum. If the Hornets aren't going to be putting together a high-test team -- which, given their financial situation, is unlikely -- then he's got no problem leaving, as much as he loves the city. And while some may disagree, the presence of Darren Collison means he wouldn't exactly be leaving the team high and dry. Maybe, as with Kevin Garnett, at some point fans acknowledge that it's time for their franchise player to move on. Well, they never want to, but sometimes, they're forced to see that -- gasp -- they have feelings for a player that are separable from the team.
Paul might be abandoning a sinking ship, but his contract is up in 2012. Better now, without too much ugliness, and Collison left as an understudy, than with much bitterness down the road. Don't forget, too, the Hornets will receive something in return. Hard to argue that the team will be better without Paul, and yet this is hardly earth-scorching on Paul's part. Superstars under far less duress have made much less magnanimous exits.
Another KG connection: like the Ticket in 2007, Paul is perhaps the ideal player to attract other major players and rally a fly-by-night dynasty. We've thought all summer that LeBron would be the first domino to fall, as well as the lodestar for any superstar formations that might spring up. Paul, though, isn't just the proverbial wild card, he's arguably a more versatile building block than James.
No question, James is superhuman and unlike any player in the game. But just look at what Steve Nash has done with the Suns. Paul, Tyson Chandler, and David West nearly had the Hornets atop the West in 2007-08. The same goes for stacking up Wade's net effect on his teammates against Paul's. Point guards are the new centers, and they don't come any better than Paul.
Much has been made of an uber-team with LeBron, Paul, and, say, Chris Bosh. I'd take Paul, any of the big men, and any of the scoring wings, over LeBron, Bosh, and spare change, or Wade, Boozer, and some banana peels. That hypothetical Chris Paul team versus James on the Bulls? No question in my mind. That's what a point guard can do, and why all of a sudden, the balance of power this summer has radically shifted.
Paul's watching, and wants to be on a championship contender. If you think that means he's an add-in, or looking to ride the coattails of James or Wade, think again. Chris Paul may yet hijack this whole parade, and end up making LeBron James looking like he overplayed his hand.