Happy morning, At the Hivers.
I think there's one thing we can all agree on: we've talked about Chris Paul way, way, way too much. So this will be a "last word and move on" type of story. Nobody's been reading the past few days, so even better.
1. Chris Paul shouldn't have signed the extension
People have been quick to criticize Paul's judgement in signing a 4 year extension in July 2008. "He should've looked ahead and realized the team would suck." Etcetera. But I'm sorry, no. That's not a good argument at all.
In 2007, the Hornets had three of the best young-ish players in the NBA- Chris Paul, David West (26), and Tyson Chandler (24). The team came within a game of the Conference Finals and was armed with the full midlevel and biannual exceptions in the summer (and draft pick). Paul finished 2nd in MVP voting and was credited with saving basketball in New Orleans.
Even with Shinn as owner, the Hornets had shown Paul they could build a contender. When Paul signed his extension, the front office hadn't made the poor decision to throw a ton of money and years at James Posey, nor had Tyson Chandler's knees/toes inexplicably deteriorated. Paul's decision to sign the extension wasn't based on the over-exuberance so many writers have ascribed to him recently. It was based on the somewhat reasonable expectation that the team could surround him, Chandler, and West with pretty solid talent. A few major injuries and bungled offseasons later, and here we are.
2. Chris Paul is Ruining the NBATM By Demanding a Trade
First of all, we don't know if this ever happened. Second of all, even if it did, this is absolutely nothing new. Kareem Abdul Jabbar did it, Kobe Bryant did it, tons of people have done it.
The corollary to this argument is that Chris Paul isn't "honoring" his contract, like any self-respecting NBA player ought to do. This claim, too, is somewhat dubious. Even if he did request a trade (which, again, I don't believe), he's still given every indication that he'll play hard come November. He hasn't held out, and he hasn't called out teammates or management publicly. Not having faith in the team's direction and asking out is one thing; refusing to play/stringing a team out and bolting via a televised decision special is entirely another.
3. New Orleans is Pretty Screwed, Regardless
This notion may be the most pervasive. ESPN ranked the Hornets 23rd in their "Future Power Rankings" (right ahead of the Memphis Grizzlies and two spots behind the Golden State Warriors). There's a sense that even if things remain settled for the remainder of the summer, Summer 2011 will certainly see the whole thing begin anew. Carmelo Anthony can opt out, the New York Knicks should once again have some cap space, and Chris Paul would presumably have more leverage.
And sure, all of that could happen. I won't sit here and say that it's entirely impossible. But it's certainly not as inevitable as many make it out to be. The team is decently talented right now. A roster that includes a healthy Chris Paul, Marcus Thornton, Darren Collison, David West, and Emeka Okafor should challenge for 45 to 50 wins, at the very worst. Toss in an impressive Quincy Pondexter and get a decent year from Peja Stojakovic, and who knows? Would anyone really be surprised if this team won a first round playoff series this year? All I'm saying is... if CP can smell some playoff success, Dell Demps' "please stay" pitch becomes a lot more convincing- especially when you consider that New Orleans should be an entire max contract below the salary cap next summer.
And with that, let's sign off Chris Paul for a little bit.