CP3 grateful for ‘unique' Warriors experience he never imagined

CP3 grateful for ‘unique' Warriors experience he never imagined originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area

SAN FRANCISCO – The question marks that surrounded Warriors general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr.'s stunning move to trade Jordan Poole for Chris Paul 14 months ago could have blanketed the entire Bay Area and beyond.

How would the 38-year-old point guard fit on the Warriors? Was he really going to start in the same backcourt as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson? Would Paul be a boost or burden to the locker room?

Paul began the season in coach Steve Kerr’s starting lineup because of an injury to Draymond Green. He then came off the bench in his third game as a Warrior for the first time since doing so once his sophomore year at Wake Forest. The result was an 11-point Warriors win against the Houston Rockets where Paul was a game-high plus-22 in 27 minutes.

Year 19 won’t be the last for Paul. The future Hall of Famer known as the “Point God” made that clear Tuesday night after the Warriors’ season-ending 118-94 NBA Play-In Tournament loss against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center, and reiterated his desire Wednesday at Chase Center. In what role, and with what team, is his next unknown.

“I think for me, I showed the ability to adapt and change,” Paul said. “But first and foremost, I’m a competitor. I want to hoop and I just love to play. I love to play; I love to contribute. I think it’s a big summer.

“I got to get back to work.”

None of Paul’s $30 million contract for next season is guaranteed. The Warriors again enter an offseason in the depths of salary cap hell, and the only way for them to find a player who can get them out of the play-in and back to being a contender might be dumping Paul’s salary. The assumption when the Warriors acquired him was this likely would be a one-year marriage, whether Golden State won a ring or was sent home early for the second consecutive season.

If it were up to Kerr, Paul again will be in a Warriors jersey – or at least that’s what he told the media Tuesday night in Sacramento.

“Chris has been fantastic, not only on the court but his leadership,” Kerr said. “It was a difficult situation for him that he handled beautifully. He’s always been the starting point guard for his team. But you look at our team, and we’re pretty small. Even though he’s one of our best players, if we want to throw our best players out there and he’s one of them, you start adding up Chris, Steph [Curry], Klay [Thompson] – it’s not the ideal roster for him.

“... The way he handled it this year was incredible. So professional, such a great mentor for the younger guys. One of the great pros that I’ve ever been around – just his approach and his attitude and his sacrifice. I loved coaching Chris and I really hope we bring him back next year.”

That decision ultimately isn’t up to Paul. Dunleavy will be the head of decision-making when it comes to Paul’s future as a Warrior, as well as Kerr and majority owner Joe Lacob. The Warriors have shown nothing but respect to Paul since he first arrived, and vice versa. Blindsiding Paul with their decision doesn’t feel like a reality, even in the cut-throat business of the NBA.

Paul himself said Wednesday he’s “open to things” when asked about his future as a member of the franchise. After years and years playing the part of Warriors rival and wearing the hat of the perfect villain, Paul’s first experience as a Warrior was full of “good surprises,” despite the team’s disappointing end, praising people from senior vice president of communications Raymond Ridder to vice president of team operations Eric Housen, the entire training staff and everybody behind the scenes, calling the Warriors a “first-class organization."

On the court, Paul led the Warriors in assists per game at 6.8, and his assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.2 was third-best in the NBA, checking the biggest box that was expected out of him. Like David West, Tyson Chandler, Bobby Jackson and others once did for him, Paul was an invaluable guide to being a pro for Warriors youngsters like Brandin Podziemski, Trayce Jackson-Davis, Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga.

Off the court, Paul now will be an AAU dad for his son and go to his daughter’s volleyball games after missing out on the NBA playoffs for the first time in 14 years. He’s still fueled by a love for basketball that began at 4 years old. He’s at more of a fork in the road than the end of his journey, focusing more on a year he never could have imagined instead of being soured by sorrow.

“It was a unique experience,” Paul said. “I'm glad I got an opportunity to play with the guys that I did, get a chance to meet new people, play for an organization I never would have imagined I'd play for. But I'm grateful for the experience.”

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