Chris Paul: Does His Contract Extension Snub Open the Door for the Lakers?

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Chris Paul: Does His Contract Extension Snub Open the Door for the Lakers?
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

I know some Los Angeles Lakers fans are still smarting from NBA commissioner David Stern's decision to nullify a perfectly legal deal to acquire point guard Chris Paul, but the saga may not yet be over in the chase for Paul's services.

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that Paul chose to reject the Clippers' three-year, $60 million contract extension; depending on who you listen to, this could mean nothing, or it could mean everything.

Paul has never openly said that his first preference is to re-sign with the Clippers, and there are a number of people who think Paul would prefer to take his talents to New York to join the Knicks. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News insinuated in this tweet that there are a lot of executives around the NBA who believe Paul will choose to sign with the Knicks after the 2012-13 season.

Of course, Isola's words are only speculation, but since Paul decided not to accept the Clippers' offer, everything exists in this category until he signs his name on the dotted line.

Until that happens, it's OK for fans to imagine Paul wearing the colors of their favorite teams, especially for Lakers fans, since that dream was so tantalizingly close to becoming reality.

One reason the Paul situation remains so painful is because, for one moment, the Lakers had the NBA's top backcourt with Paul and Kobe Bryant, and in the next instant they didn't. Just like that.

It's easy to picture the 2011-12 season taking a different course if Paul was on the roster, but is there a chance that Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers can pull off the unthinkable once again?

The easy answer for most cynics will be a resounding no, but to be honest, how many of these same people saw the first deal coming?

I would challenge anyone to find three people who predicted the first Lakers-Paul deal before it was announced, and the team's ability to accomplish that franchise-changing trade should erase any doubt moving forward.

The Lakers have built their brand by completing deals like the first one that briefly brought Paul to Los Angeles and the one that secured the rights to Pau Gasol in 2008. The league's new CBA may make it more difficult for the Lakers to spend with reckless abandon as they have in the past, but they can still accomplish their goals by taking a measured approach.

And remember, the first Paul deal was completed under the backdrop of the league's new salary structure anyway.

None of this means that the Lakers stand a chance in hell of signing Paul once he reaches free agency next season, but considering their recent history, the option can't be dismissed, either. The Lakers will likely be rid of Gasol's burdensome contract by the time 2013 rolls around, and the team might have the resources to do straight up what they couldn't do through a legitimate deal.

In my opinion, Paul will likely choose to join close friend Carmelo Anthony in New York if the opportunity presents itself, but until that move is official, every team—including the Lakers—is a candidate.

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