By Mitch Chortkoff
Sports Editor 

Clippers’ Future Hinges On Paul’s Decision


For two years Chris Paul has been a model of what every NBA franchise would like to have.

Actually he’s been that guy much longer. But I’m only talking about his time in Los Angeles as the dynamic point guard of the Clippers, who badly needed his leadership following countless mistake-plagued years as an underdog franchise.

Paul played brilliantly, ignoring the Clippers’ past problems and never talked about leaving when he became a free agent.

But he’s a free agent now.

Why would he leave? The rules permit the Clippers to pay him millions more than any other team. And combining with Blake Griffin the duo has made the Clippers the NBA’s most entertaining team.

But, unfortunately, in the NBA one bad week can change everything.

The Clippers set a franchise record with 56 regular season wins, won the Pacific Division for the first time and won all four meetings with the Lakers.

However, in the NBA the playoffs determine whether a team’s season will end in success or failure.

So, when the Clippers lost their first round series to the Memphis Grizzlies in grizzly fashion, losing four straight games after winning the first two, Paul decided to inspect his free agent possibilities.

“I don’t know how this will play out,” he said. “The first round loss was unacceptable.”

Like the Lakers’ Dwight Howard, Paul won’t be able to sign with another team until July. But the mere thought he could be leaving leaves the Clippers in a most uncertain state.

The issue isn’t money since the Clippers have the advantage there according to the NBA’s rules concerning free agents.

The issue is winning, as in Paul’s desire to play for a championship team. Do the Clippers have the potential to get there soon? Is the playoff disappointment a carryover from the failure of Clipper teams in past years?

There have been so many that some in the media have suggested the Clippers’ franchise is cursed.

My personal opinion is one bad week shouldn’t cancel out six months of excellence. But often it does.

If Paul leaves, the Clippers will probably promote his backup, Eric Bledsoe, to the starting position. If Paul stays Bledsoe will probably be traded. He’s played well enough to be a starter and another team would likely give him s big raise.

I don’t know if Paul would like to see Vinny Del Negro return as coach. But superstars of Paul’s stature can have a major influence on the front office’s decision.

What if Paul says he’d like another coach? What if Dwight Howard tells the Lakers he’ll come back if Mike D’Antoni is fired? Players the caliber of Paul and Howard can’t be easily replaced.

Clipper general manager Gary Sachs says he’ll get input from players regarding Del Negro and he’ll talk to owner Donald Sterling, who has a long history of replacing coaches.

I’m afraid they’ll make the wrong decision. But I’d like to be wrong. I’m in favor of building on what you’ve accomplished instead of going in another direction.


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