During an appearance with Sirius XM NBA Radio on Tuesday, Matt Barnes recounted seeing his former guard over the weekend and learning why the All-Star had soured on calling Madison Square Garden his new home.
According to Barnes, Paul didn't want to play at MSG if no fans were allowed in to see him:
“We were discussing like, hey, where are you going to go. And he was saying the Knicks were an option but, you know, if he was going to New York he wanted the full Knick experience, meaning he wanted the fans, he wanted the essence, he wanted the ambiance of that Madison Square Garden crowd. And going there now, we don’t know if that crowd will ever be back.”
Instead, Paul was dealt to the Phoenix Suns in a blockbuster deal Monday that sent Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick back to Oklahoma City. The Suns also acquired Abdel Nader in the swap.
Phoenix went from a dark horse in the Western Conference to a contender almost immediately once the trade was completed. That wouldn't have been the case for the Knicks had Paul landed in New York.
While the notion of Paul being upset about playing in an empty Madison Square Garden is a nice thought, it's unclear if Phoenix will allow fans to attend games in 2020-21 as the coronavirus pandemic continues to surge across the country.
Of course, Paul has a player option available for the 2021-22 season and could opt out if he's that set on playing for a packed MSG next year. It doesn't hurt that his former agent, Leon Rose, is now the president of the Knicks, either.
With the 35-year-old entering his 16th year in the NBA, it seems more than likely he'd rather have a ring at this point than center stage in New York City. Phoenix was able to offer that. The Knicks couldn't quite come close.