When Chris Paul’s knee gave way, we waved goodbye. It was all gone – the supreme court vision, deceptive explosiveness, pinpoint dimes, everything.
Before the injury, he was ascending the stairway to greatness. Any point guard can see the passing lines – but Paul wasn’t any point guard. He was a master puppeteer, manipulating his opponents and teammates on a whim to create easy buckets. He was so dominating, so assertive that he didn’t even need to score to leave his fingerprints all over the game. He even managed to take David West and a band of journeymen to Game 7 against the playoff-hardened Spurs. He ignited the movement that considered point guards, and not power forwards/centers, as the centerpiece of an NBA contender. But last spring it came to a crashing halt.
The whole sequence of events brought back memories of the rollercoaster that was Mike Tyson. Before his three-year prison term, he was the shining light of boxing. He reminded us why we loved watching grown men beat the hell out of each other. He exposed our bloodthirsty, destruction-enjoying selves. Maybe Roman gladiator fights weren’t so bad after all. But it was all too good to be true. There was no way the ultimate pain inflictor could adjust his in-the-ring personality to civilized society. So when prison stole boxing’s savior, the sport began to crumble.
Chris Paul’s return to action did not inspire hope. He was hesitant, slower and 50x less explosive. That is until he faced off against the Lakers in Round 1, where he nearly toppled a team with more weapons than Delonte West’s guitar case. In one short series, he revived himself from the shadows of what could have been. Just like Tyson. Post-prison, he quickly regained his form and became a legend once again.
The new (well, old) Chris Paul is the one that has a chance in this matchup. He may lack the size and strength to push ‘Melo around, but his hands may be the quickest in the NBA. If ‘Melo doesn’t protect the ball, Paul is swiping it free.
Of course there’s a reason why ‘Melo nabbed the No. 3 seed. His offensive game is arguably the most deadly and versatile in the NBA. If he decides to care, his defensive physicality will overpower everyone. But that’s why he’s No. 3 and not No. 1. Defense is a decision. If he chooses wrong, Paul will drop buckets and we could be looking at Bucknell over Kansas all over again.
Jay Bilas: “This matchup is really intriguing. Carmelo is bigger and stronger, but Paul is smaller and quicker, with better leverage and he has the ability to finish around the basket. I would actually give Paul the edge in this one because of his quickness and speed.”
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