Chris Paul, the heralded Point God has been in the league for a while now, and boasts a list of accolades; 9-time NBA All-Star, four-time NBA assists leader, six-time NBA steals leader, four-time All-NBA first team member, six-time NBA All-defensive first team, Rookie of the Year award winner and an Olympic gold medalist in the 2012 Summer Olympics.
On Saturday night Paul added yet another milestone to his already great career. He became the first player ever since turnovers were recorded in 1977 to record a 20-point, 20-assist game with zero turnovers. That’s essentially the NBA’s equivalent to pitching a perfect game, or as close as it gets.
Paul takes pride in being the ultimate floor general, and is seen on and off the court as one of the greatest leaders in the NBA. The veteran point guard likened his duties to that of a quarterback after his historic performance.
“As a point guard, I’m like the quarterback, so a turnover is like an interception,” Paul said. “And when you have as much firepower as we have, a turnover takes away from that opportunity.”
Paul takes his leadership role seriously, and after his team’s recent slump that saw them lose five of seven games, including three straight, he was ready to right the ship.
“That’s the first thing I look at every game, how many turnovers I had,” Paul said. “I’ve been getting techs in games because I had a turnover or something like that, that I didn’t think was my fault that I didn’t think was a turnover.”
The Clippers definitely have the firepower, but his performance was even more incredible considering perennial All-Star Blake Griffin was sitting out with a sore left knee. Paul left it up to the likes of Deandre Jordan, J.J. Redick and Marreese Speights to cash in on his passes.
Even Paul’s teammates who have played with or around him for years were amazed by his effort.
“He had no turnovers?” Jordan quipped after the game. “Damn, dudes a legend.”
Speights, who had spent last season with the Golden State Warriors, and is no stranger to outstanding passing performances marveled at Paul’s ability.
“The performance he had tonight was amazing,” Speights said. “I’ve never been a part of nothing like that, to have 20 assists and 20 points.”
There is however, another story line to take from Saturday night’s game.
Paul is approaching a potential free agency this summer, as he withholds the ability to decline his player option and enter the market. Recent reports have stated that he will demand a five-year maximum contract.
Despite his age and injury history, Paul is playing at an extremely high level this season. Regardless of his historic 20-20 performance, teams from across the league will covet his guard abilities.
If the Clippers fail to reach at least the Western Conference Finals, there are rumors that Doc Rivers could look to break up the team in search of new answers. Will they be willing to spend that kind of money on an aging superstar who has failed to get them out of the woods?
If the Clippers don’t, the Atlanta Hawks were definitely licking their chops as they watched his game against the Pelicans. His age means nothing to a team that hasn’t sniffed success in years.
Paul’s success actually puts the Clippers management (in other words, Doc Rivers) in a tough position. If Los Angeles fails to live up to their own expectations, it won’t be easy to move on from a superstar point guard that looks to remain in the discussion for the league’s best for the next few years at least.
Rather, if Paul would have shown signs of deterioration, or even a slight slippage, it would make Doc’s offseason plans a lot easier to wrap his head around.
Who knows, maybe it will be Paul who decides to leave Tinsel Town, if the Clippers don’t play up to his own very high expectations. And with both LeBron James and Kevin Durant having skipped out on their respective teams for greener pastures, Paul would hardly be criticized if he did decide to take his talents to South Beach, or anywhere else for that matter.
Paul has a terrific basketball resume, and regardless of how his career ends he is a sure-fire Hall of Famer. But, there is no arguing that his lack of post-season success has bothered him greatly.
“Unfortunately for me, I’ve had 11 summers of going into the summer knowing what it’s like not to win a championship,” Paul said during last year’s free-agency period.
Perhaps the Clippers have what it takes to win big this offseason, but if not, Paul has some big decisions to make.