Chris Paul Plans.
He was planning when he forced a trade out of it New Orleans a decade ago. He planned when he creatively used a contract option to get himself to do it Houston. He was planning on helping change an obscure age rule in the collective agreement that would give him the opportunity to earn tens of millions of dollars in extra pay.
Even in the moments after Paul’s Phoenix suns finished 123-98 Beat the visitors Denver nuggets Paul had planned to take a 2-0 lead in their second round series of the Western Conference on Wednesday. In the locker room, knowing the Nuggets were coming back from trailing 3-1 twice last season, he got his teammates to think about Game 3 on Friday night in Denver. Paul told stories of the 2-0 against them San Antonio Spurs 2008 while with New Orleans, only to eventually lose in seven games.
But even on his rosiest drawing board, he probably couldn’t have seen the situation developing.
The Suns have won five playoff games in a row and seem to get stronger with each win. His long-time opponents fall off the board. Stephen Curry is at home. Lebron James is at home. Injuries are mounting across the league and this time the one Paul had in the playoffs – his shoulder spike that almost ruined that run before it started – appears to be healed.
The suns are healthy and play great as a group. In both games of the second round, five players scored double digits.
People across the league are starting to talk about how this could be Paul’s best shot ever in an NBA final. It might be premature to say that his Rockets team were 3-2 up Golden State Warriors in the conference final before a hamstring sidelined three years ago.
But after the routine disappointments with that LA Clippers and the disappointments and near misses in Houston, this series of rising suns feels like the most unexpected playoff situation in Paul’s career.
“I’ll tell you,” said Paul after scoring 17 points with 15 assists and no losses in Game 2. “I’ve really never been on a team like this before.”
Working with the Oklahoma City thunder, Paul had several hopes when choosing a trading destination in the last off-season. He wanted to be close to his family in Los Angeles, have good weather and the chance to play alongside a star; he would have that in there Devin Booker. Represented by the same agency, Booker desperately sought help.
“I’m done with not getting into the playoffs” Booker said three years ago, after a 21-61 season with Phoenix. “I’m serious.”
After a perfect 8-0 in the Orlando, Florida bubble to narrowly miss the 2020 playoffs, the Suns were on the up mobile – but weren’t seen as real contenders. The fan base and various people in their organization may have concluded they were over the course of this season, but now that it’s actually happening, Paul basks in the position he found himself in.
Booker was the star Paul believed, with the young Guard’s 47-point closeout game beating defending champions Los Angeles Lakers the gem so far. Paul can’t believe how effective his teammates are at shooting with Jae Crowder, Mikal bridges, Dario Saric, Cameron Johnson and Cameron Payne illuminate the opposition from the outside.
Paul, who was the centerpiece of Lob City with the Clippers and an offensive juggernaut in Houston, said he had never seen anything like it.
“Everyone shoots,” said Paul. “You don’t have to try to find a specific guy [on our team] are knockdown shooters. “
Chris Paul connects with Deandre Ayton for a roaring two-handed slam.
During that streak of five post-season games, Paul has 53 assists and four turns. That’s 53-4. With his better shoulder – he couldn’t even attempt long shots for several games in the preliminary round – he made 14 of 24 shots and 4 of 5 3-point throws in this series. His two threesomes on Wednesday were fourth quarter daggers.
“He plays games better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “For me this is not a matter of course, for our team it is not a matter of course.”
It is dangerous to believe that this fairy tale will go on; Paul’s playoff career is a long series of unexpected setbacks. But it is also in man’s nature to watch him at the age of 36 and wonder if a little karma is going his way.
Outwardly Paul will not allow it; he’s shot literally dozens of commercials about insurance covering unexpected disasters. But inside he can probably see the road ahead and begin to feel some warmth.
“We’re cool,” said Paul. “We have people who understand the moment.”