After an impressive rehab stint in Oklahoma City, more than a few teams — including contenders — were interested in bringing Chris Paul on board. He had options.
He chose the Phoenix Suns, a somewhat unconventional choice in that they had missed the playoffs for the last decade. Why Phoenix? Paul opened up about that on the No Chill with Gilbert Arenas podcast (hat tip Clutch Points) and said it was the people.
“Some people just think about going to a team. When I thought about going to Phoenix, people didn’t even know that was in my mind. I knew Monty already. Regardless of our relationship in the past, I know his mindset. I know he prepares. Don’t nobody know, that year I played for Monty [in New Orleans] … we started out 11-1. People don’t know that…
“How I operate in this point in my career. I’m like ‘Damn, Devin there he nice.’ I already know he a dog. Willie there. Willie Green, that’s my man. Off the court, I know him he’ll keep my mental side. So I was like man, ‘this could work’.”
Paul had been with Monty Williams in his first stint as a head coach in New Orleans. It was just one season, but the CP3 and David West led team made the playoffs and pushed the eventual champion Lakers to six games. There was tension, Paul left, Williams grew, but the relationship had been established.
Devin Booker had been putting up numbers for years, there just wasn’t a team around him that could win. Paul and other players around the league recognized how good Booker was, but it took a step forward from Deandre Ayton and Mikal Bridges, the addition of guys like Jae Crowder, and Paul’s leadership to put them over the top.
Credit to Paul for seeing how this could all come together. It rewarded him with a trip to the Finals. It rewarded him with a new $75 million (at least) contract.
Now comes the hard part: Repeating that success in Phoenix.