Chris Paul is planning.
He planned when he forced the trade from New Orleans a decade ago. He plans when he creatively uses a contract to get to Houston. He planned when he helped change a secret rule in the collective agreement, which allowed him to earn tens of millions in additional wages.
Even as Paul Phoenix Suns completed a 125-98 Denver Nuggets draw to take a 2-0 lead in the series, Paul planned. In the locker room, knowing the Nuggets had returned twice last season from a 3-1 deficit, he made his teammates think of Game 3 on Friday night in Denver. Paul tells stories of the 2-0 rise against the San Antonio Spurs in 2008 while in New Orleans, but eventually lost in seven games.
But even on his most pink drawing board, he probably couldn̵
The Suns have won five playoff games in a row and seem to be getting stronger with each win. His longtime opponents fall off the board. Stephen Curry is home. LeBron James is home. Growth is rising across the league, and this time the one Paul had in the playoffs, his shoulder that nearly ruined that run before it started, seems to have healed.
The Suns are healthy and play brilliantly as a band. In both games of the second round, five players scored double-digit.
People around the league are starting to talk about how this could be Paul’s best shot in the final. It may be premature to say that, given that his team at the Houston Rockets rose 3-2 to the Golden State Warriors in the conference finals before pulling the tendon to remove it three years ago.
But after routine disappointments with the LA Clippers and disappointments and recent omissions in Houston, this rising series by Sunson feels like the most unexpected situation in the playoffs in Paul’s career.
“I’m telling you,” Paul said after scoring 17 points with 15 assists and no turnovers in Game 2. “I really haven’t been on a team like this.”
Working with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Paul had several hopes when choosing a commercial destination for last season. He wanted to be close to his family in Los Angeles, be in good weather, and play to a star; it would be in Devin Booker. Represented by the same agency, Booker desperately wanted help. “I ended up not making the playoffs,” Booker said three years ago after the 21-61 season. “I’m serious.”
After playing the perfect 8-0 in Orlando to miss the playoffs for a while in 2020, the Suns were mobile – but they were not seen as real contenders. Various people in their fan base and organization may have come to this conclusion while this special season was unfolding, but now that this is actually happening, Paul is trying to be in the position he is in.
Booker was the star he believed in, and his 47-point knockout of the Lakers was the gem so far. Paul can’t believe how effective his teammates are in shooting, and Jay Crowder, Michal Bridges, Dario Saric, Cam Johnson and Cameron Payne are highlighting the opposition from the outside.
Paul, who was at the center of Lob City with the Clippers and in an offensive juggling in Houston, says he has never seen anything like it.
“Everyone’s firing,” Paul said. “You don’t have to try to find a certain person. All [on our team] are shot down archers. “
Chris Paul connects with Deandre Ayton for a roaring two-handed helmet.
During the winning streak of five games, Paul has 53 assists and four turnovers. That’s 53-4. With his shoulder better – he couldn’t even try long shots for a few games in the last round – he made 14 of 24 shots and 4 of 5 3 points in that series. His two three on Wednesday were daggers from the fourth quarter.
“He manages the games better than anyone I’ve ever been,” said Suns coach Monty Williams. “It’s not something I take for granted, it’s not something our team takes for granted.”
It is dangerous to think that this story will continue, Paul’s career in the playoffs is a long series of unexpected failures. But it is also in the nature of man to observe him at the age of 36 and to wonder if there is any particle of karma directing his direction.
Externally, Paul does not allow it, he has literally made dozens of ads for insurance covering unexpected disasters. But inside, he can probably see the way forward and begin to feel a little warm.
“We’re cool,” Paul said. “We have guys who understand the moment.”