The basketball world was stunned in late June when news broke that Chris Paul was opting into the fifth year of his contract in order to facilitate a trade from the Clippers to the Rockets. Paul had been the face of the Clippers for six years, leading them to the playoffs in each season.
While it was a run of success the likes of which the franchise had never seen, the team was never able to clear the hurdle of the second round and after their most recent early exit from the postseason would be their last as a unit. Paul’s decision to ask out of L.A. was shocking to many, but it was something that Paul had apparently been considering for some time.
In a recent profile on Paul’s move from L.A. to Houston, Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins offered a nugget of information that hints at how early Paul was thinking about a potential move and James Harden’s role as a recruiter. According to Jenkins, Harden broached the topic in the middle of a game against the Clippers during a dead ball.
Lob City—presided over by Paul, power forward Blake Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan—was a viable NBA municipality. But Paul sensed, from his bayou days, it could be more. Last April, in the 81st game of the season, L.A. obliterated the Rockets. During a dead ball, Houston star James Harden turned to Paul. “So,” Harden said, “what are you going to do?”
The rest, as they say, is history. Paul eventually came to the conclusion that joining forces with Harden provided him with a better chance at winning a title than staying around with the core group of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan in L.A. To his credit, he gave the Clippers the parting gift of allowing them to deal him rather than walking in free agency, which netted L.A. some solid talent in return, namely Lou Williams who has kept them afloat to this point of the season.
The move also appears to have been a shrewd choice from Paul, as the Rockets look to be the top contender to the Warriors not only in the Western Conference but in the NBA as a whole. All signs point to Paul re-signing in Houston, either for the max or less, depending on if his reported efforts at convincing LeBron James to join them is successful.