Chris Paul is simply put the best player available as a free agent this summer.
And while teams will call, the buzz around the league is none of them think they have a shot at him. Everyone is pretty convinced he will re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.
That includes the Clippers. Marc Stein wrote at ESPN.com that the Clippers are very confident that CP3 will not leave this summer.
As one source close to the situation put it this week when asked to grade the Clips’ chances of retaining CP3, keeping in mind his well-chronicled love of the Hollywood scene and the fact that this team was good enough to reel off 17 wins in a row earlier this season: “I’m saying 99.5 percent.”
There are a lot of reasons for optimism. One, Paul likes the Los Angeles lifestyle, and he puts his son and family first and they all seem settled. Next, the Clippers can offer him more money in a max deal than anyone else with larger raises. (The Clippers cannot offer a fifth guaranteed year because they gave their one five-year deal to Blake Griffin.) Also, the organization seems to listen to him in terms of player moves he’d like to see.
Most importantly, where else is Paul going to go where he would be closer to winning a title? We can debate if DeAndre Jordan can really provide the punch they need inside in the postseason, just like we can discuss how they could use another shooter. And there is always the Vinny Del Negro caveat when discussing the Clippers postseason. But the fact is the Clippers are close, very close. If they can play in the postseason like they did at their peak this season they are a legitimate challenger to the Thunder. The Clippers are in the red zone for a title, not starting the drive from their own 20 like they were for so long.
Things always can change. A playoff meltdown could alter the landscape. This team is still owned by Donald Sterling and he did not become a saint overnight. We could come up with a list of things that could go wrong, but the fact is they most likely will not. Chris Paul will be back with the Clippers next season.
Which is why when team around the league look at major free agents they can poach this summer, they are eyeing that other team in Staples Center, not the Clippers.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.
Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.
His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.
Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.
Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.
As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.
Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.
Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.
Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.
Maybe a little too pumped.
That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.
Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.
(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)
The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.
While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.
“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”
Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”
We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.
Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.