I’m still in amazement.
The Phoenix Suns, a team who finished an 82-game season with a mere 19 wins just 20 months ago, is now expected to make the playoffs. Yes, it is the way it should be, but still. This franchise has lacked success for so long, it is with caution that we feel the butterflies of excitement.
One of the primary reasons for the change in expectations was the addition via trade of 10-time All-Star Chris Paul.
Chris Paul has always been the enemy. Respect his game or not, he has played the part of nemesis as a Suns’ rival for 15 years. 6 seasons with the Oklahoma City/New Orleans Hornets. An additional 6 years with the Pacific Division rival Los Angeles Clippers. 2 years in Houston with the Rockets. 1 year with the Thunder.
He has spent his entire career in the Western Conference playing against the Phoenix Suns. Paul has 55 career games against the Suns, posting per-game averages of 19.4 points, 9.2 assists, and 4.2 rebounds. Paul’s record against Phoenix? 36-19 (including 13-1 since the start of the 2016-17 season). He has been a thorn in our side during a decade of mediocrity.
So how do we root for a guy who has been the enemy for a decade-and-a-half? What should we expect from him as fans who are now invested in his success? Who is the real Chris Paul?
Welcome to Loud City, the Oklahoma City Thunder SB Nation site, is a good place to start to find those answers. Editor-in-chief Sarah Dewberry joined the Suns JAM Session Podcast recently to talk CP3.
As expected, we liked what we heard.
Q: Following the end of the season, did you believe that Chris Paul was going to be a member of the Thunder coming into the 2020-21 season?
Sarah Dewberry: I was hoping that he would but I figured that it was 50/50.
I was ‘fingers crossed’ that he would stay...ESPN gave them a 0.02% chance of making the playoffs [last season] and then, all of the sudden, they go all the way, seven games against the Rockets. Which was awesome.
Chris Paul was healthy, which he was not when he was in Houston, so that was a big thing. Another big factor was the young players really listened to him. He was dealing with a lot of stuff as the players association president, having to deal with COVID, the boycotts...so he has his hands full and he’s also trying to carry a team. I was hoping that those three things would kind of factor into him staying here.
And also when Hurricane Katrina came in and he got drafted by the Hornets, he started his NBA career in in Oklahoma City, so there’s a lot of awesomeness that goes with staying in Oklahoma City. I was hoping really that he would stay but kinda knew wouldn’t. Just because of the money game and talks that he was going to go to the Knicks.
I think you guys have gained a really great thing and I think Devin Booker is going to grow exponentially. You guys were awesome in the Bubble; you were the only team to go undefeated. You’re already great at what you do. To add Chris Paul to it, even though he’s 35, I think a lot of players are going to listen to him and he’s going to do really well for your team. You guys have gained a really a really great player.
Q: How surprised were you that Phoenix was Chris Paul’s destination?
SD: Kind of surprised. I don’t think [Phoenix] was in my top 3.
My top 3 were either he was going to the Knicks because that was a big talker. The Lakers kind of, and then I thought he might go back to the Rockets. Just because of his relationship sorta kinda with Harden...I know it was kind of iffy.
For Phoenix it’s a big gain.
Q: What would you say is your most memorable or favorite story about Chris Paul in his time in OKC?
SD: It would probably be this season, just because that went on. Like I said, before, ESPN gave them a 0.02% chance of making the playoffs and this is the healthiest he’s been. I can’t remember any games where he was healthy in Houston. With everything he did as the player association’s president and dealing with the boycotts and trying to get everybody to be cohesive and how grateful he was.
I seriously did not see the Thunder making it that far. I thought Houston would sweep them. For him to really take the other players under his wing and he was, “they’re learning a lot from me but I’m learning a lot from them”.
The way he would just so enamored with everybody and just so nice and how he was learning. He would congratulate other players. “This isn’t about me, this is about everyone that’s on the Thunder organization. Our team is so great”. It was so heartwarming to see just how nice of a guy he is. Usually you don’t deal with that with athletes.
He took the time to talk to the media and talk to other players and he listened.
Q: Give us the good and the bad with Chris Paul. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
SD: Strengths is leadership. He’s been in the league a really long time. He’s played with a lot of different personalities. He’s dealt with a lot of stuff. He knows how to be humble and sweet and nice and also listen to the young kids.
I would say probably the downside is his age. He’s 35. That’s like 90 in dog years. He definitely needs to stay healthy. If he can stay healthy, he’s fantastic, but as we saw when he was in Houston and he had a lot of injuries, the team suffers.
Q: What should we as fans expect from Chris Paul?
SD: A lot more fun. He’s a great leader. He’s really personable with fans. He’s very straight forward. He knows what he’s talking about. If anything pops up, like with COVID, he will handle it well.
I think fans are going to get really excited.
If he stays healthy, it’s game on. He and Devin Booker are gonna be like Batman and Robin. It’s gonna be a lot of fun for you guys.
For the entire interview, check out the podcast:
Thank you Sarah Dewberry for joining us to discuss CP3!