Paul will team with MVP runner-up James Harden, giving Houston perhaps the most dynamic backcourt in the league and a chance to possibly upend the unruly Golden State Warriors.
“Any day you can acquire a Hall of Fame-level player is a good day for the franchise,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey told reporters following the trade’s announcement. “It’s a weapons race in the NBA, and you’re either in the weapons race or on the sidelines. We felt with Harden in his prime, Chris Paul in his prime, this gives us a real shot to chase the juggernaut teams that are out there and puts us right there with them.”
Paul loved his tenure in Los Angeles, and relayed that message in a farewell tweet.
“Unbelievable amount of emotions right now- I don’t even know what to say,” Paul tweeted. “Lots of love and tears. I’m so blessed and thankful for the ability to play this game, this is the part no one can prepare you for. To the Los Angeles community and to CLIPPER NATION I say THANK YOU!!! For the past 6 years you all have welcomed not only me but my family. We love all of you…”
According to reports, Paul was not pleased with the outcome of his meeting with the Clippers Tuesday, who opted to offer him a four-year contract rather than the full five-year super max deal he was pursuing, a team executive said.
The rumor mill has been in full effect as to what led to Paul’s departure from the Clippers. None of the theories speculated about by NBA experts paint a pretty picture of what’s been going down behind the scenes. Paul reportedly had grown frustrated with a variety of internal matters.
League sources are reporting that Paul was seriously irked by the way Rivers treated his son in comparisons to the rest of the team, and found his refusal to deal Austin in a trade that would have landed them 10-time All-Star Carmelo Anthony as a sign that he cared more about his son’s career than the Clipper’s championship contention.
Paul will now have a chance to escape the second round of the playoffs, and will be playing for this year’s NBA Coach of the Year in Mike D’Antoni, whose innovation in the backcourt has helped shape modern basketball.
Only time will tell if the Rockets now possess the firepower necessary to give the Warriors a competitive series, let alone advance past them in the Western Conference Finals. The more important question is what will become of the Clippers, who brought back Patrick Beverly, Sam Dekker, Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, a top-three protected 2018 first-round pick and $661,000 in the deal for Paul.
While the Clippers front office made a great move in trading Paul before he walked in free-agency (thank you, Jerry West), their focus now shifts to Blake Griffin, who like Paul declined his player option and opted out of the final year of his contract.
The former NBA Slam Dunk champion is expected to be pursued by several teams, with rumors surfacing that the Celtics in particular could be a landing spot for the five-time All Star. Paul effectively changed the trajectory of the entire Clippers franchise, Griffin included. Without his leadership and Hall of Fame qualities, who would blame Griffin for bolting to greener pastures.
All signs now indicate that re-signing Griffin is LA’s number one priority. The Clippers managed to bolster their bench with acquisitions like Williams, Beverly and Dekker, and lead by a frontcourt duo of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers may be able to squeeze into the playoffs.
Three-point specialist J.J. Redick is reportedly not expected to re-sign with LA in favor of chasing a big payday, meaning that the Clippers will have more than enough cap space to sign one or even two max free agents following this upcoming season, perhaps bringing the team back to an elite level.
While losing Paul may have been the biggest L’s in the franchise’s history, if the Clips are able to retain Griffin, their offseason and playoff hopes may not be completely forgotten.