There’s a famous Michael Jordan commercial where MJ skips out of the halftime speech to run across Chicago, get dressed in his wingtips, and transforms into a CEO. The punchline comes when he runs back to the United Center and, without time to change his shoes, scores 43 points in wingtips.
More than a few players get that chance to blend business with basketball while they’re still playing, but few are so trusted by his own team to make decisions for that club. Chris Paul may be the closest blend in the game right now to that MJ-CEO fairy tale (remember, even Kobe didn’t get a say in Mike Brown‘s hiring). It’s because this fall it was revealed that although Paul turned down a three-year, $60-million extension, he’s been given a voice in front office personnel decisions, a carrot dangled by the Clippers in front of Paul as a promise of power to come if he re-signs in L.A. in July.
Why bring it up now? Paul put that power into action before the trade deadline by making a personal appeal to Kevin Garnett multiple times by phone. It would be foolish to think the Clipper didn’t try to engage with the Celtics’ big man during All-Star Weekend, but Paul went a step further with his calls. From the Boston Herald:
According to several accounts, though, talk between Ainge and the Clippers continued right up until the final hours yesterday. Garnett said during All-Star weekend that he would not waive his no-trade clause, and held true to his vow despite added pressure from Clippers guard Chris Paul.
According to a league source, Paul called Garnett and said that if he was open to joining the Clippers, then Paul would make it happen. Garnett, though, declined, expressing a desire to remain a Celtic.
Ainge’s wish list had been topped by the Clippers’ young duo of guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan. The Clips, with an eye on trading part of the future for a deep playoff run now, focused their attention on Garnett.
But Garnett reportedly said no, to the relief of an entire Celtics locker room.
All of the Clippers’ advances, of course, were rebuffed. The move does, however, seem destined to get it right one of these times. Instead of being the quintessential “coach on the court,” Paul is a GM out on the court. Despite Blake Griffin‘s star power and ubiquity, Paul is the reason a player would want to play on the Clippers, and giving him that power allows Paul in theory to engage prospective teammates months before a trade talk happens between the teams. Maybe he sidles up to a star when teams are shooting free throws and puts a bug in his ear about “possibilities.” Maybe he drops a “imagine if…” line when he goes out to dinner with another star after a game. If an executive does that, it’s tampering. If Paul does it, it’s a smart work-around that could achieve two endings favorable for L.A. — keep one star in town, and maybe add another through his unofficial work as personnel director. Look, I know it’s common for players to talk among themselves and dream about playing together — the seeds of a Big Three in Miami’s were planted years before at the Olympics and an All-Star game, and Paul and Dwight Howard even talked about playing in Dallas, according to reports. It’s unique, though, to have a player’s desires backed up by management. The dream used to be What if we could do this. With Paul it’s more of a What will it take to get you here?
This time it didn’t work. In the future and with a star less-connected (and grateful, for getting him for the 2008 title) to his organization than Garnett, the idea of playing with Paul will be much harder to resist.
What do you think?
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