Chris Paul(notes) had come into the NBA with so much of Kevin Durant’s(notes) pureness of purpose: humble, grateful, still the kid who worked summers pumping gas and changing tires at his grandfather’s gas station in North Carolina. He constructed himself a reputation of values and character, and separated himself in all the best ways.
He should stay on course to be his generation’s Tim Duncan(notes), but that no longer appeals to Paul. He’s veered the wrong way, into the wrong clutches. Bad enough that LeBron James(notes) damaged his own standing in the sport this summer, he wants to take down Chris Paul with him too.
James, his business manager Maverick Carter and powerbroker William Wesley have far too much influence over Paul’s career, and they’re running it right out of the sunshine and into darkness. They’re using Paul as a commodity to elevate their clout, to show how they can take a player with no contractual leverage and muscle him out of New Orleans.
What they don’t care about – and maybe don’t understand – is that Paul built such a beautiful, unique relationship with the city of New Orleans. He’s been so truly invested there, a beacon and ambassador in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Yet, the James gang see these bonds as disposable and they’re convincing Paul of it, too.
In a Twitter pronouncement on Thursday, King James declared, “Best of luck to my brother [Chris Paul] … Do what’s best for You and your family.”
James was referencing Paul’s half-baked trade request that’s come through Worldwide Wes. Do what’s best for your family? Here’s an idea: What Paul ought to do is run away from James, Wesley, Carter and not stop moving until he’s returned to New Orleans and reaffirmed the obligations he’s made there. No, this isn’t a championship team, but a franchise player reveals himself in good times and bad.
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What’s best for Paul’s family is best for everyone’s family in the NBA. It needs James to restrict the polluting onto others of his own warped value system. James plays for the Miami Heat, but somehow he wants control of transactions elsewhere, too. He wants the building of these so-called super teams to protect his own legacy, to make it look like he isn’t the only superstar searching for the easy way to championships.
Wesley has been running around for months trying to orchestrate a trade for Paul, and the packages he proposes are beyond comical. He doesn’t even know half the names of players on the rosters. CAA should take a long look in the mirror, and ask itself what kind of outfit it’s turned into with Wes running basketball operations.
Wes is a full-service middleman now: players, coaches and general managers. He has long orchestrated deals for players and coaches, but through CAA he’s also in the GM business now. Worldwide Wes was responsible for Oklahoma City Thunder executive Rich Cho getting hired as the Portland Trail Blazers’ GM. Now, Portland is one more franchise under the impression that Wes can broker a trade for Paul.
Before New Orleans hired Dell Demps as GM, Wes was asking people: Who is that guy? Now, Wesley and CAA will try to overrun the young, inexperienced Demps and coach Monty Williams with a trade demand. CAA does have a list of preferred teams, and Demps’ first act as GM should simply be to take the list and tear it up. Paul has two years left on his contract and no leverage unless the Hornets are foolish enough to relinquish it.
Paul is a first-team All-NBA talent, and you don’t trade those players. All the proposed deals for him bring back the same thing for New Orleans: far less value. Five nickels don’t add up to a quarter in basketball trades.
All this saga promises to do is cast Paul as an insolent star, and James’ group as the ultimate powerbrokers. Paul doesn’t want to hear this, but they’re preying on his insecurities. They’re using him.
In Paul’s earliest days with Team USA, officials preferred Deron Williams(notes) to him because they believed Williams was far more his own man. No one liked the way Paul was so eager to follow James, Carmelo Anthony(notes) and Dwyane Wade(notes). These changes haven’t come overnight with Paul, but over time. James, Carter and Wesley embarked on a long, orchestrated campaign to work Paul over, unfasten him from past loyalties and trusts, and transform him into a creation of their own.
And he’s let them, for no other reason than it seems Chris Paul believes this is somehow the path that will convince people that he belongs with the sport’s biggest stars. He could’ve stayed true to himself and elevated his standing, and now they’re dragging him down with them. Everyone else embraced Paul for an All-American image, for a wholesomeness, and it feels like he’s rejected it all now.
Chris Paul doesn’t need LeBron and Maverick and Wes. They need him. For their operation, Paul represents credibility. He’s always been better than this, and he needs to be again. As much as ever, the NBA needs Chris Paul to be true to his upbringing and character. Commitment always mattered to him, and it still should with the Hornets.
After all this bluster comes and goes this summer, and the Hornets don’t trade him, he still has to return to play there. All his brand new business partners have made that so much harder for him. He saved the NBA in New Orleans, and now it’s time he saves something else before it’s too late. His reputation, his good name.
All the advice that Chris Paul has ever needed out of LeBron James came calling in less than 140 characters on Thursday. Do what’s best for you and your family. Before it’s too late, Chris Paul needs to think for himself and respond with the best move of a brilliant young career: Turn around, go home and leave King James and his court of jesters far, far behind.
- Chris Paul