Are the LA Clippers Asking Too Much of Chris Paul?
He's a six-time All-Star, a five-time All-NBA performer on both ends of the floor and the player singularly responsible for bringing the franchise its first Pacific Division title and most successful regular season in history (56-26).
That's why they're ready to roll out multiple Brinks trucks to Paul's residence as the point guard enters free agency and the organization enters its first period of uncertainty since his arrival. But are they making too many missteps now to thwart their sales job before the first pitch is ever made?
There was always an assumption that Paul would be able to handpick his next coach if he wasn't enamored with former Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro. That is how life works in the star-driven NBA world, after all.
But having an assumption was one thing. Having the team owner say, in not so many words, that Paul was the reason Del Negro wouldn't be returning to L.A.'s sideline was quite another.
Players don't want the label of coach killer, even if the rest of us know that the greatest ones often have the greatest voice in the decision. So it wasn't the least bit surprising when reports surfaced that Paul was "angry," according to Chris Broussard of ESPN The Magazine, with the fact that the front office pinned Del Negro's departure squarely on his shoulders.
Vice President of Basketball Operations Gary Sacks set out on damage control shortly after Paul's displeasure was publicized. No matter how adamant Sacks attempted to be in deflecting blame for the dismissal from his star point guard, his words came off as nothing more than an attempt to pull owner Donald Sterling's foot out of his mouth.
This wasn't the first time Paul was reportedly unhappy in La La Land. According to T.J. Simers of the Los Angeles Times, his competitive seriousness had him clashing with the more laid-back duo often on the back end of his lob passes, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
But their rumored rift wasn't necessarily just about opposing personalities. Griffin and Jordan were part of the Clippers' core before Paul arrived. In other words, they weren't part of the roster additions that insiders say Paul has hand-picked since landing in L.A, per Mark Heisler of HoopsHype.
With manufactured superteams cropping up all across the NBA landscape, players like Paul would be remiss not to be involved in the recruitment process.
But his role in roster decisions is far more like that of a general as opposed to a front-line soldier hammering the pavement on a series of sales calls. After Paul's debut season with the Clippers in 2011-12, Sacks already saw him as equal parts player, scout, coach and general manager.
Most players welcome that kind of authority within a franchise, and Paul's always been known to enjoy a bit of control.
But at what point does having so much influence become too much?
If you believe what Paul's been saying, he wanted nothing to do with the decision on Del Negro. Even he knows there are only so many choices that he should be making.
Should the Clippers be giving Paul so much influence on the franchise?
The Clippers are prepared to do whatever Paul asks to keep him draped in red, white and blue next season. But aren't there people in place to make the decisions that he's been making for the last two seasons? Shouldn't those people be selling their visions of the franchise's future to him, rather than just their ability to realize his?
Right now the Clippers seem like the awkward kid that's been handed an unexpected invitation to the cool kids' table. Their individuality is gone, replaced with unending streams of agreements.
Spoiler alert: That awkward kid doesn't usually keep that seat for too long.
Let Paul have autonomy on the hardwood. That's where he's been honing his craft for the last eight years.
But leave the front office decisions to the executives hired to make those calls.
The Clippers have seen what kind of an impact Paul can make. Now the onus is on them to prove they're just as capable of producing a substantial impact for the franchise, or they're risking him taking his Midas touch elsewhere.
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