CP3 to the Lakers: Is It Time to Give Chris Paul the LeBron Treatment?

Joye PruittSenior Analyst IDecember 8, 2011

NEW ORLEANS - MARCH 24:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers talks with Chris Paul #3 of the New Orleans Hornets at the New Orleans Arena on March 24, 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  The Cavaliers defeated the Hornets 105-92.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  v  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
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It is the most unofficially official news to come across league airwaves.


There could not have been that much smoke blown for fans to be completely let down by something as brash as Paul actually staying with the New Orleans Hornets. The league is not that loyal to its constituents.

I watched Twitter go into a stark-raving-mad craze of reaction as Lakers’ fans were obviously smiling from ear to ear waiting for it to be officially announced on ESPN by the man all the sources confide in, Chris Broussard. Soon after the major breaking news of awesomeness was announced about Chris Paul’s move, the conversation was followed by a brief discussion of the possibility of Dwight Howard rolling into Hollywood behind him.

It would be one of the greatest trades in the history of the game and would shift the power in the league to about four or five teams, at most, including both the Miami Heat and the Los Angeles.

But, something surprised me about Paul’s move. The move itself has been predicted, negotiated and evaluated prematurely by every walk of life. The Lakers are getting the most monumentally effective point guard since Magic Johnson. Yes, it is that serious.

Back to the point at hand, what was so surprising was the fans’ reaction to his decision. People were either singing his praises or taunting Lakers’ fans that he would not be enough to rekindle the spark the franchise has seemingly lost. No one was that upset with the easy-to-love guard even as it was being reported that he would be abandoning a ship that he has been the cornerstone of in each season of his career in the NBA.


Didn’t we almost stone LeBron for signing with another team in free agency?

He did not demand a way out. As planned as the move to Miami may have seemed between him and besties, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, he had every right to pack his bags and leave Cleveland high and dry. So, why don’t we hate Paul like we hated James? It is a shared concept that these two superstars decided being good enough was no longer good enough.

What’s the difference?


No ESPN Special

If there is an hour-long special on Chris Paul taking his talents to LA, it will be because SportsCenter cannot find anything greater to talk about.

CP3 is not the kind of flashy, "use a special to promote my decision and embarrass my former franchise" type of player. The New Orleans Hornets were informed by him that he wanted a trade out and that if his requests were not granted, he would probably be out the door for nothing in the 2012 free agency.

The Hornets, in turn, were able to align their chips properly to establish something in return if this is truly what Paul wanted to do. There were not fans gurgling down beers in a local bar staring at the television waiting for their names to be called.

Everything was done behind closed doors and progressions were kept quiet until the last hour. 

No arrogance. No publicity stunt. No striped shirt in front of a silent crowd hanging onto his every word.


It’s a LeBron-Jordan Thing

Is CP3 compared to any player that has come before him? Is he the new-age Magic Johnson? Or maybe even the second-coming of Michael Jordan? Is he Bird? No!

Chris Paul is none of these things and has not been coined alongside any of these names. It is the best thing to ever happen to the young player’s budding career in the league. He is not expected to be the greatest of all time, nor has he pronounced himself as having the preceding stature.

He is and always has been, Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets, a competitor by nature and a teammate to anyone in his locker room.

Then there is LeBron.

It should resurface that James never actually came out and said that he was Michael Jordan and even planned on changing his jersey number before the move to the Miami Heat was even announced.

It seemed that he attempted to guide himself from under Jordan’s shadow, but it was to no avail. The media had already beat it into everyone’s heads that he would be the next greatest ever and many naïve fans believed it.

LeBron is a great player, but he lacks a lot of the raw leadership qualities and aggressive passion that propelled Jordan to the level of play. LeBron was doomed from the day he wore No. 23.

His move was like James plainly stating, “I can’t do it alone. I’m just not MJ.” Obviously, fans were not too happy about the contractual proclamation.


People Love CP3. People Just Don’t Like LeBron.

You can blame it entirely on the ESPN special, but you would only be lying to yourself. If you hate him after that, then you hated him far before and that is a-okay. LeBron is not really the guy that you would want to hang out with if you’re not a resident millionaire. His sometimes awkward sense of retort and confusing relationship with the media would send anyone’s emotions into a spiral.

His consistently changing roles in the league may also rub you the wrong way.

One minute he’s the bad guy tweeting away after a pitiful 50-plus point Cleveland loss to the LA Lakers. The next minute he is wishing the same franchise that apparently hates his guts more luck in the future and a better present. James’ perplexing personality shifts are hard to keep up with and figuring out if you want to love or hate him causes too much of an internal stir.

It’s far easier to just hate him.

But, Chris Paul is just the kind of player you want to see in the NBA succeeding and exceeding his potential. Paul has been “that guy” for New Orleans even at moments when the franchise’s city was standing on its last leg. Hurricane Katrina ripped through New Orleans, and Paul was a small, yet significant beacon of light in such a tormented moment in time for the city.

Through all of the Hornets’ franchise ups and downs, Paul has yet to complain, pass blame or make light of any opponent. His stance has always been clear-cut and simple.

He is here to win.

He plays hard and nothing is given to him or taken by him unless he has earned it with blood, sweat and even last season during the playoffs, a black eye. Paul is not spoiled. He is a hard worker, which seems harder to come by than it should in a league built on stamina, strength and the stress of preparation.


Miami Heat Won Big. LA is Losing a Few Key Components.

The LA Lakers get Chris Paul, but…..

There is an asterisk next to the acquirement because while LA has gained a huge franchise player in Paul, they have also lost some sure-fire players that contributed greatly in recent Lakers’ seasons.

No more Pau Gasol. No more Lamar Odom. In part of a separate deal, having nothing to do with Paul, no more Shannon Brown.  

There are gaps that have been blown wide open in Lakerville as the removal of these players forces a couple of issues that LA must address: bench depth and front court.

There are still other things to be done for the Lakers to feel as if they are complete contenders in this season’s playoffs.

Miami won huge! Two of the best players in the league, stretching a bit with Chris Bosh, headed to a team with one of the top five most talented in the NBA. The move was seen as unfair and a huge competitive imbalance that executives were dying to fight. Players were primarily in charge of their destiny and league execs had absolutely no say.

It was hell-on-wheels.

So, we go on with life not hating Chris Paul because he is the furthest thing from what fans believe LeBron James represents.

I can almost bet my last dollar everyone has faith that Paul will win a ring before James. Why? Because his personality deserves one. He is everyone's Mr. Nice Guy.

Emotions are invested in James; point spreads and quality-thinking are invested in Paul.