Saturday, May 4, 2013

Chris Paul Fails

No, not at basketball: by the end of the six game series with his Clippers against the Grizzlies, he was just about the only Clipper I wanted to see play basketball ever again.

No, where Paul failed was that he allowed the frustration of the here and now -- getting bounced in six games against a Grizzly team that last year crushed him physically while losing, and this year crushed him mentally while winning -- to translate into a cheap shot foul on center Marc Gasol with two minutes left and the game more or less over. If Paul were big instead of little,and if Gasol were little instead of big. the Association's best point guard would be justly serving a 5-game Andrew Bynum vs. JJ Barea style suspension to start the 2012-13 season.

Nice job by ESPN for getting what happened right here. I kid, I kid.

And maybe none of that really matters, and no one will really have the moment of thinking first about that play, rather than the hundreds of revelatory and explosive ones he makes during the course of an NBA season. But then again, maybe not. Paul could possibly be leaving the Clips (they are owned by Donald Sterling; wouldn't you leave, too?) after this season, and while the team does have some intriguing talent outside of him (they were, after all, a 4 seed, the Pacific Division champions, and had the best year of their besotted history), they aren't making the playoffs again without him, and certainly aren't defending their one-year run as Best Team In Town.

I wouldn't be disappointed if Paul left the Clips; he's too good of a player to keep trying to prop up the empty calories of Blake Griffin and the sudden flashes and much more common disappearances of DeAndre Jordan. The Clipper bench is also rife with end of life guys like Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill and Lamar Odom, all of whom seem to have no idea that the good times are gone and that they need to reinvent their game into frantic five minute bursts to provide real value. There's no way, ever, that a team should lose guys like Reggie Evans and Kenyon Martin and provide nothing of equal value, or think that importing a smaller thug in Matt Barnes (who, admittedly, played the game of his life tonight to keep it close for a while) would make it all OK.

I'd like to just lay this at the feet of Jordan and Griffin, but that's too easy. The former has always been taxed at being anything more than an athletic back up, given the horrendous free throw shooting, and the latter does have the inevitable mid-series injury excuse to cover up another disappearing act. (Seriously, if he had arrested the lack of rebounds and blocked shots in his game by now, I'd be more charitable. But for now, he's just empty calories in a flashy package.) But some of this also goes on Paul. Like Steve Nash before him, his genius on offense does not translate to defense, and he gives back nearly as much as he creates, especially if he's taken on more of the scoring load. Paul's never going to be a stopper at his height and usage levels, but the bigger issue is that, by the numbers, the Clips really didn't win his battle against Mike Conley. And they so needed him to win his battle against Mike Conley.

Personally, I'd like to see him move along -- to the East, which desperately needs a second up-tempo team to balance out playoff watchability. Put him on the Pacers and that team gets good enough to lose a fun series against the Heat, instead of a tedious one. Put him on the Bulls, and they become effectively the same team they were before Derrick Rose got hurt, but better. Give him to Orlando or Toronto, and they make the playoffs as a highly entertaining fraud.

But what none of these teams do is win an NBA championship. Because if the best player on your team is only good on half of the floor, you may be fun as all hell to watch... but you aren't enough of a leader to actually win series that you shouldn't.

And then you show that failure of leadership more... it by cheap-shotting a guy and getting ejected.

Nice year for Los Angeles basketball, eh?

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