Among the many "quirks" emerging from the NBA's new collective bargaining agreement is the frequency with which franchise-caliber players are either turning down or ignoring lucrative contract extensions.
This is no accident, of course.
In an attempt to...ummm...encourage the league's biggest stars to stay put, those responsible for hammering out the deal last fall (i.e. David Stern and friends, Billy Hunter and friends) limited the length and dollar figures that teams could offer their own players before their current contracts expired. At the same time, those same power brokers opted to allow incumbent teams to sign their own free agents to longer and pricier deals than anyone else could once said free agents hit the open market.
It was hardly a shock to the system, then, when Chris Paul turned down a three-year, $60 million extension to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers for the foreseeable future. There were bigger and better fish to be fried as a free agent—whether he'd choose to re-up in LA or seek riches elsewhere.
Not that the thought of luring him one way or another hasn't left basketball fans in New York, Dallas, Atlanta and beyond tingling with anticipation for next July. And it's not like the prospect of losing Paul, arguably the best point guard on the planet, hasn't been cause for some anxiety among Clipper Nation, which is all too familiar with basketball futility.
Paul was the first true superstar to "choose" to play for the Clippers in the franchise's long and painful history. He brought credibility and a certain swagger to Donald Sterling's previously penny-pinching outfit upon arrival last December.
Better yet, he did so while essentially sticking it to the Lakers, who've lorded over LA (and, by extension, the Clips) for decades. Their loss was the Clippers' gain, thanks in no small part to a flick of David Stern's magic veto wand.
And the most popular incantation—"basketball reasons"—since "expecto patronum."
With Paul running the operation alongside superstar-in-the-making Blake Griffin, the Clips posted their best regular-season winning percentage in franchise history and won Game 7 of a playoff series on the road.
In short, Chris transformed the Clippers from a lottery-pick factory to a legitimate basketball outfit.
Losing CP3 next summer, then, would be devastating to the organization, and understandably so. No team in any sport could reasonably hope to forfeit the services of the top player at a given position and not endure a significant drop-off in performance thereafter.
Much less when said top player's arrival meant so much to the team in the first place.
But never fear, Clippers fans. Strange as it may seem from a historical perspective, there's every reason to believe that Chris will be wearing red, white and blue well beyond the 2012-13 season.
For one, Paul has claimed that he wanted to be a Clipper when the opportunity first arose after the lockout last year. In a recent cover piece for GQ, Paul told Steve Marsh that he preferred to team up with Blake Griffin and company rather than join Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum in purple and gold:
"They had the better pieces, and winning with the Clippers would be legendary."
So clearly he's already gotten the hang of the Hallway Rivalry and understands full well which side he's on.
And though the notion of the Clippers having "better pieces" may seem somewhat ludicrous after the Lakers brought in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard this summer, it's still not entirely far-fetched. Yes, the Lakers are in better position to win big right now with a high-powered, veteran-laden squad.
But the future is bright (if not brighter) on the other side of the Staples Center. Blake Griffin has established himself as a perennial All-Star in just two years while having barely scratched the surface of his prodigious potential.
He'll be in a Clippers uniform until at least 2017.
DeAndre Jordan, a young talent in his own right, is signed on through 2014-15. Eric Bledsoe, a gifted point guard and Paul's understudy, is still playing on a rookie contract that expires after the 2013-14 season.
The rest of the roster has CP3's fingerprints all over it.
According to Sam Amick of SI.com, the Clips looped Chris in on many of their personnel decisions this summer. They sought out his blessing for the Lamar Odom trade, sought out Jamal Crawford and re-signed Chauncey Billups at his behest, and even gave him free reign to recruit Matt Barnes and Willie Green.
In essence, CP3 built the Clips' current roster. Why, then, would he want to leave it behind?
Where will Chris Paul wind up next summer?
Especially when there will be so many opportunities in the years to come to flex his front-office muscle even further. The Clippers' cap situation is such that the team will have the requisite room to add pieces via trades and free agency from season to season. They have just over $45.7 million in salaries committed for 2013-14, not including Paul's potential pay, followed by a smidgen more than $33 million in 2014-15 and just under $21.4 million in 2015-16.
If Chris has been granted as much input as he has so far, imagine how involved he might be with day-to-day decisions once he prolongs his stay in the City of Angels.
One would hope that Paul would be so invested in the Clippers' future when so much of their future is due to be invested in him. According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, once CP3 hits free agency next summer, the Clips will be free to offer him a five-year deal worth up to $108 million—more years and significantly more money than any other suitor can cobble together, per the guidelines and restrictions of the CBA.
That's a lot for Chris Paul to walk away from, particularly for a guy with a history of knee problems.
Throw in the roster he's built, the bonds he's formed and the choice he claims he made upon forcing his way out of New Orleans, and it becomes even more difficult to imagine him playing for anyone other than the Clippers come the fall of 2013.