Chris Paul is two months from becoming an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NBA career. The Los Angeles Clippers are determined to never let him get there.
Vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks pledged to do everything in his power to keep Paul, who was acquired via trade from the New Orleans Hornets on Dec. 15, 2011. Paul turned down a three-year, $60 million extension last summer. At the time, that was the top offer the Clippers could make under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement.
"The No. 1 priority for us right now has to be us signing our star player, Chris Paul," Sacks said. "That's our goal, that's what we want to do. We want to put ourselves in a position to do that. We feel this organization is in a position to move forward with that goal in mind. It's always difficult, it's never easy, but we feel confident we can be successful."
There's confidence in knowing the Clippers can offer a five-year, $107.35 million deal with Blake Griffin locked up via a five-year, $95 million deal in 2012.
Paul, 28, and the Clippers cannot discuss that max contract until July 1.
"I'm going to take my time," Paul said. "I haven't even thought about it. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do the rest of the day. I might go home and swim with my son or something. This is nuts. I don't know what to do. I purposely didn't put anything on my calendar because we're supposed to still be playing."
There might not be as much optimism about the future of coach Vinny Del Negro in Los Angeles. The Clippers were ousted from the playoffs in six games by the Memphis Grizzlies, who as the No. 6 seed rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the opening round series. Speculation last summer was that Del Negro would never see his third season as Clippers coach. But he led the team to a franchise-best 56-win season, their first Pacific Division title and a second consecutive playoff appearance.
"We're in the evaluation process," Sacks said. "(We) will go over some things for the future and discuss with our owner and kind of see where we're at."