Not only that, but Paul was given free reign to play his best self, and he made his 11th All-Star team, 10th All-NBA selection and finished 5th in the league’s Most Valuable Player voting, all at the age of 35.
Oh, and the Suns wanted to give him a ton of money in a long term deal too. Why would he look around and consider offers from other teams in free agency, then?
Because this is the same Chris Paul that simply does not let moss grow under his feet, so to speak. To use another analogy, roots have no time to grow under this tree.
Paul has played for five teams now in his 16-year career. He pulled the strings on his exit from four of those five. The later he gets in his career, the shorter the stints with each team (6, 6, 2, 1) as he searches desperately for that championship ring. Very few of the best-ever players in NBA history have bopped from team to so many teams while still playing at All-Star level.
But, in Chris Paul’s words from all the way back to training camp in December 2020, this Suns team is “special”. Six months and a Western Conference Conference championship later, Paul still feels the same.
“After this season in Phoenix and experiencing how amazing the fans were, my chemistry with my teammates, with [Devin Booker] Book, with Monty [Williams], I knew Phoenix was where I wanted to be,” Paul told Yahoo Sports. “It’s time to get back to work.”
Paul re-signed with the Suns this week to a four year, $120 million contract that could pay him through age 40. The guaranteed money is very front-loaded though. Reports have at least half the 3rd year and nearly, if not all, the 4th year non-guaranteed. It’s a good deal for both sides. If he stays healthy he stays getting paid. And if he falls off dramatically post age-38, the Suns have leverage to re-negotiate at a lower salary. And if he retires, there’s a lot of cap freedom with the non-guaranteed money.
The Suns now have Paul, fellow All-Star Devin Booker and backup Cameron Payne — who re-signed for 3 years, $19 million — under contract as the team’s primary ball handlers for at least the next three seasons.
Booker (age 24) and Payne (age 26) will get better and better. The big question is how gracefully Paul continues to age.
Paul is a medical marvel, somehow still playing at a high level — All-Star, All-NBA level! — at age 35 for most of this season. Yes, he suffered a series of minor injuries in the playoffs. He had the should stinger in round one, COVID-19 to begin the Conference Finals, then capped it with torn ligaments in his right fingers and an injured left wrist that needed surgery.
Yet he played through all but the league-mandated COVID-19 quarantine (2 games) and posted 19.7 points, 8.6 assists, 49.7% shooting (44% on threes) over the whole 20-game run for him. His best stretch between the injuries in the second round as the Suns swept the Nuggets, posting an incredible 25.5 points, 10.3 assists, 63% shooting (75% on threes) with only 5 turnovers in 4 games.
Now he’s ready to embark on the back end of his career with a contender that needs the best of him to win that elusive championship.
“I think the biggest thing for me and my advice is you can’t get bored with the process,” Paul told Yahoo Sports. “It’s crazy to think about all of this. My brother CJ [Paul], my agents, they see everything that goes into my training, the masseuses, the body work. I’m always working out. Getting up at three in the morning, five in the morning to go work out has paid off.”
After a thrilling early-season win in which Devin Booker made the game winner as the clock expired against Dallas, Paul gushed in the postgame media session about those emotional highs and lows being reason he never ever wants to retire.
“One thing I’ll never do is take this game for granted,” Paul told Yahoo Sports. “I love to play. It’s a real privilege. I’ve said this time and time again, I don’t care what type of business endeavors I’ll have set up when I’m done playing, it’s going to be so hard and tough whenever I finish playing. Because I love the game, I love the grind, I love the workouts, all of it. This game means a lot to me, and I’m so thankful to be in this position.”
Chris Paul is going to finish his storied career in Phoenix, folks. He’s finally setting down roots that will last forever. After he retires as the best point guard of his generation he will be voted into the Basketball Hall of Fame on the first ballot.
If he can go in there with a championship ring on his finger, all the better.