Chris Paul Undecided On Future
By Arash Markazi | ESPNLosAngeles.com
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Chris Paul left the Los Angeles Clippers' training facility Saturday afternoon for the last time this season, giving no indication of whether he would return.
"I don't know how this whole thing is going to play out," Paul said. "I'm going to pray about it. We'll see."
Paul passed on a chance to sign a three-year, $60 million extension with the Clippers last year, but can sign a five-year, $108 million deal this summer. He said he will take his time before deciding what he will do as an unrestricted free agent.
"All season long, it's something that I said I would address after the season and I really didn't think about it all during the season," Paul said. "The season's not even 24 hours from being over, so I really haven't thought about it. The craziest thing is that this season is over. I still haven't got that wrapped around my brain."
The best season in Clippers franchise history ended Friday night with a 118-105 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 6 of their first-round series.
Despite leading the Clippers to their first division title and a record 56-win season, Paul was still hurting from being eliminated in the playoffs. He never has advanced past the second round and has missed the playoffs or has been eliminated in the first round six times.
As he looks at where he wants to spend the next five years of his career, Paul said the opportunity to win a championship and play well into June will be a big factor.
"When I woke up this morning, little Chris had gotten in my bed and the first thing he said was, 'Daddy, why you lose again?' " Paul said. "I told my wife last night on the bus riding to the airport, that's the toughest thing now. He's old enough to understand what's going on and that we don't have any more games to go. I think about that type of stuff because that's my guy and we don't have any more games. He's going to be a little confused."
Blake Griffin signed a five-year, $95 million extension with the Clippers last summer and said he and his teammates would talk to Paul about re-signing in the offseason.
"He's a huge piece to our team moving forward," Griffin said. "He's going to know that we want him back and we would love for him to re-sign and keep moving forward with this franchise, but ultimately this is his decision. He has to do what's right for him and his family and we're going to be behind him."
Paul was influential in recruiting several players to sign with the Clippers in the offseason, including Matt Barnes and Grant Hill, and was a big reason why Chauncey Billups was comfortable converting to shooting guard in order to start alongside Paul.
Billups said he would like to return to the Clippers. He was only able to play 22 games during the regular season after coming back from a ruptured Achilles and dealing with several other injuries, but said he feels as good as he has in two years.
"I would love to be back here and continue to help in this process," Billups said. "I feel like we are getting closer. I definitely want to be a part of it and I'll be able to show everybody who I've always been with a summer of getting myself together, so hopefully it works out like that."
Billups, who will be 37 at the start of next season, said he hopes to play two more seasons and has no aspirations to be a head coach when his career is done.
"I'm focused on playing a couple more years," he said. "Two more years is my goal and after that my desire is more to be in the front office, not coaching. You never say never but my desire has never been to coach. It looks like I'm doing that now but I can't help myself. I would feel better about being in management and putting a team together."
Billups also said he would talk to Paul about returning.
Hill, who will be 41 at the start of next season, had hinted several times that this would be his last season after battling various injuries and only playing in 29 games. Hill, under contract for next season, didn't rule out the possibility he could come back for one more season after feeling healthy again.
"I feel as good as I've felt in the last two years," Hill said. "That may mean you should continue to play or get out while you're healthy, but I do feel great. It certainly may factor into what I may do going forward."
Barnes was able to have a career season after he signed with the Clippers for the veteran's minimum before training camp began at the urging of Paul. Barnes had 30 points and 10 rebounds Friday against the Grizzlies. He said he will explore his options but hinted that Paul already had begun recruiting him to re-sign with the team.
"Chris and I have already been talking about it," Barnes said. "We talked about it on the plan last night. He's obviously the franchise player but we also talked about what I was thinking about doing. Without giving anything away, he was doing his job (in recruiting me)."
Paul said he wouldn't necessarily have to be recruiting to stay with the Clippers, but also wasn't patting himself on the back for turning around the franchise from where it was before he arrived.
"I don't know. This right here was unacceptable," Paul said. "We lost in the first round to a good Memphis team but a team we were capable of beating. There are no moral victories ... I have nothing to do. This is unreal. We only played two weeks long than everyone else that didn't make the playoffs. That sucks. That stings."
Whether Paul believes the Clippers are capable of playing more than two weeks into the postseason likely will go a long way in deciding whether or not he will re-sign this summer, but he's in no rush to make that decision.
"I'm going to take my time," Paul said. "I haven't even thought about it. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do the rest of the day. I might go home and swim with my son or something. This is nuts. I don't know what to do. I purposely didn't put anything on my calendar because we're supposed to still be playing."