Chris Paul officially removed any mystery about his plans in free agency at 11:27 a.m. ET on Monday morning:
Yes, as just about everybody projected, the 28-year-old All-NBA point guard let the Internet writ large know that he intends to follow through on the verbal agreement he reportedly reached early Monday to re-up with the Los Angeles Clippers.
As soon as he is able to do so on July 10, following the league's moratorium on the completion of trades and free-agent signings, Paul will slap his John Hancock on a deal that will pay him as much as the league's collective bargaining agreement will allow over the next five years, which works out to $107 million. Plus, according to CBSSports.com's Ken Berger, Paul can opt out of the contract after its fourth year, which would enable him — assuming continued health and productivity — to pursue another lucrative, if not necessarily max-level, deal at age 32. Nice work if you can get it.
The agreement and subsequent tweet confirm what's been suspected since the Clippers completed a trade with the Boston Celtics that brought Doc Rivers to Los Angeles as the team's new head coach and senior vice president of basketball operations. Paul reportedly pushed for Rivers to replace Vinny Del Negro after three years at the Clippers' helm, and Rivers reportedly made the move west with the understanding that he'd be coaching Paul despite the guard having the option of testing the free-agent waters come 12:01 a.m. ET Monday; while rumors briefly circulated that Paul had interest in teaming up with fellow top-tier free agent Dwight Howard, perhaps in a tandem trip back to the East Coast with the Atlanta Hawks, such a pairing was always unlikely, especially since Paul never seemed to show serious interest in leaving the Clippers, especially once procuring Rivers' services became a serious possibility.
The onus now falls on the high-priced head coach and his nine-figure point guard to team with All-Star power forward Blake Griffin, hopefully-on-board-despite-being-heavily-shopped center DeAndre Jordan and an evolving cast of role players to help the Clippers build on the best season in franchise history, a campaign that saw them win a franchise-record 56 games and top the Pacific Division for the first time in team history, but also seem somewhat stuck in their evolution after a first-round postseason ouster at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.
While continued development from Griffin and especially Jordan will be integral if the Clippers hope to advance past the conference semifinals for the first time in franchise history, Paul is the straw that stirs the drink. For my money (which, it is worth noting, is somewhat less than $107 million), he is the best point guard in the world, an unparalleled half-court orchestrator and facilitator who knows when to seek his own offense, ranks among the league's best fourth-quarter tacticians and plays some of the most opportunistic perimeter defense in the game.
You'd understand if some Clippers fans felt a bit dicey about paying an annual average of more than $20 million per season to someone who's had knee surgery, who has missed time with knee, hip and hand injuries over the past two seasons and who will be on the wrong side of 30 by the time this contract ends, but injury history aside, this is about as open-and-shut a max-contract case as there is in the league — Chris Paul is worth every penny you can pay him, so you pay him every penny you can.
With Paul's contract situation quickly settled, the Clippers will now move on to addressing the remainder of their roster. Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Marc J. Spears reported early Monday morning that the Clippers are interested in shooting guard O.J. Mayo, late of the Dallas Mavericks, who declined a $4.2 million player option for next season to become an unrestricted free agent. Yahoo! Sports NBA columnist Adrian Wojnarowski reported Sunday that Rivers would love to bring in ace perimeter stopper Tony Allen, but the All-Defensive First-Team shooting guard may have more lucrative offers elsewhere, including from his most recent employer, the Memphis Grizzlies.