DALLAS (AP) — Chris Paul turned 37 on Friday, in the midst of another memorable playoff run and perhaps his best shot at capturing the championship that has eluded him during his 17 NBA seasons. Paul, one of the NBA’s biggest control freaks, has never wanted to be the player who followed another team’s success to a title late in his career only to be able to say he retired with a ring. . So it should come as no surprise that even deep on his Hall of Fame path, he hasn’t had to turn back the clock on who he once was. Chris Paul has never stopped being Chris Paul.
The Suns’ version of Paul is almost indistinguishable from the player we’ve seen since he entered the NBA in 2005. Aside from a regular season scoring drop, which seems more by design than anything else, Paul is still as good as always. . Consider: Paul’s effective field goal percentage over two seasons in Phoenix is the second-best mark of any of his five career saves. His EFG of 53.6% in 2022 was the sixth best of his 17 years. His 10.8 assists per game this season was his third-best mark. In 2016, Paul picked-and-rolled on 51.9% of his possessions and averaged 0.94 points per possession. Six years later, he ran them at 57.2% and averaged 0.99 points per possession. Meanwhile, in the postseason, Paul is posting the fifth-best scoring and assists average of his playoff career.
We may not be seeing the best of Chris Paul in Phoenix. But considering the mileage on his body, which doesn’t have the build of another famous 37-year-old in LeBron, it’s surprising we haven’t seen the worst of Paul either. And it’s clear that his on-court skills still allow him to lead by example.
After Phoenix’s Game 2 win over the Mavs, Devin Booker spoke in awe of Paul’s ability to manipulate what happens on the floor. Jae Crowder chuckled as he explained his point guard’s killer instinct in the fourth quarter. And before Game 3, the 26-year-old Cam Johnson, who was nine when Paul entered the league, talked about how he soaks up everything Paul does to stay effective, from his diet to his exercise regimen to the amount of water he consumes. baby. daily.
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During his year in Oklahoma City, Paul was happy to take the younger players on that team under his wing, though he made it clear in no uncertain terms that even the bizarreness of that situation wouldn’t dampen his desire to win. During his tenure at Phoenix, there was no mention of him preparing the team for the future or trying to be the wise veteran who regales everyone with tales of his glory days. That’s because Paul is still in the upper echelon of superstars. And his tally stats, while in line with virtually every other year of his career, still don’t do justice to how much he has elevated those around him.
Deandre Ayton has gone from a dazzling pick to one of the most versatile greats in the NBA. Booker was racking up big numbers on lottery teams, now he’s one of the most feared competitors in the league. Crowder found a team that really wanted him for two full seasons for the first time in more than half a decade. Mikal Bridges has become the premier oversized 3-and-D player in the league. It all goes back to the acquisition of Paul, who joined the Suns in his prime and threw napalm on the fire. (I guess that would be even more explosive than gas).
Of course, very little of this will matter to Paul unless he is able to win. His haunting consistency, his ability to defy the conventions of the time, his insistence on continuing to draw ridiculous fouls on opponents all stem from his singular obsession with winning whatever he does. If there is one thing, I guess Paul does wants to be different this season, is that he can finally win a championship. If the Suns are able to finish the job, it will be because Phoenix’s Chris Paul is the same one we’ve seen all our lives.
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