As president of the NBA Players’ Union, Chris Paul has advised and pushed players such as Giannis Antetokounmpo not to take less than the max. He and LeBron James have told players that the owners make plenty of money on these teams, don’t cut them a break by taking less than the maximum a player is worth.
With that as a background, I’m not sure where the fantasy among some Rockets fans that Paul would take a discount came from, but it was never going to happen. The best the Rockets could hope for is he would be willing to do a team option on the last year of a new deal, when he would be 37 years old and making well over $40 million, but that was unlikely.
Adrian Wojnarowski reminded us of that on his latest podcast speaking with fellow ESPN employee Bobby Marks (hat tip Shane Mickle of ClutchPoints.com for the translation).
“When the Rockets made that deal for Chris Paul, knowing they would re-sign him (Paul opted into the last year of his contract to make the trade happen), they made a conscious decision that they were gonna have to live with $46, $47 million-a-year salary when he’s not nearly the player anymore in his late 30s, but, ‘We’re gonna make a run at it now; we wanna win a championship now. We’ll deal with it [Paul’s contract] later.’
“We’ll see how that plays out in their contract talks here in free agency. Chris Paul didn’t turn down $200 million from the Clippers because he thought that somehow the Rockets were gonna talk him into saving them luxury-tax money. I don’t imagine it playing out that way.”
It’s not. Rockets GM Daryl Morey is going to go to owner Tilman Fertitta and say “the cost of going for a ring the next three years is the last two years of CP3’s contract” and then Fertitta will sign off on it.
By the way, it’s not how this will play out even if the Rockets go after LeBron James. Paul is not going to help them out again. If LeBron is going to come to Houston — and that is a huge “if” — he is going to have to take the discount, he is going to have to do what Paul did last summer, opt into the final year of his contract, then force a trade. Which is not easy to pull off (if you’re the Cavaliers, is Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson and the No. 8 pick enough for you to take on an $80 million tax bill next season?). Just remember, LeBron has hinted he’s not taking a discount, either.
If Daryl Morey were not in charge of the Rockets I’d be tempted to write them out of the LeBron sweepstakes. He’s a wizard, however, so never say never.