Chris Paul deserves to be mad. He should be angry. Maybe, he should ask for the manager of the basketball gods.
This may be answered by medical experts or kinesiologists, but does anyone really know why CP3 gets injured at the absolute worst times?
In the 2018 Playoffs, his Houston Rockets had the peak Kevin Durant-era Golden State Warriors on the ropes, leading the Western Conference Finals 3-2. Paul ended up missing the last two games of that series due to a hamstring injury, opening the doors for a Warriors comeback.
This year, after leading the Phoenix Suns back to their first postseason appearance in 12 years, Paul gets nicked right in the first half of Game 1 of their first round series against the Los Angeles Lakers. The Suns were cruising against the defending champs when LeBron James soared over his banana boat buddy for an offensive rebound, hitting Paul's shoulder midair. The Suns have described the injury as a right shoulder contusion, but that seems like a severe understatement, considering Paul has barely been able to lift his arm.
The Suns were lucky the Lakers respected Paul so much in Game 1 that they played him like he was healthy for the rest of the game, almost ignoring the fact that Paul couldn’t even dribble with his right arm. Game 2 had no such luck as the defending champs pounced on the limping Paul, daring him to take his signature midrange shot every time he probed the lane.
Phoenix hurt themselves the more they played Paul, all the more when Cameron Payne caught fire and proved to be a better option, at least for that game. The Suns fought back from a 15-point deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter without Paul.
Usually, the Suns torch opponents in endgame scenarios like this as Paul would divvy out shots and manage possessions like he was the CEO of clutch. Without Paul in Game 2, the Suns didn’t make a single field goal in the last four minutes of the game against the league's best defense. For all the roses Devin Booker has rightfully received this season, CP3 is the key to the Suns making a deep run.
Paul should be frustrated by this whole situation. For his entire career, Paul has been the best point guard in the league, keeping alive the line of old-school floor generals that has gone out of fashion since the influx of the score-first point guards. He made New Orleans basketball relevant. He went to Los Angeles to lead several talented Clippers squads that collapsed in the playoffs every year. Ask Daryl Morey and he’ll tell you that the 2018 Rockets were statistically the champions, but stat sheets don’t make for good rings.
When everyone thought he was washed, he dragged the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team pegged to be tanking, to the 2020 Playoffs. Now, just when the Western Conference playoffs seem as wide open as ever, he gets unlucky again.
It's understandable if you dislike Chris Paul. He complains to the refs a lot. He flops. He snitches on players for not having their jerseys tucked in or for when he hears them curse at refs. Cliff Paul was peak corny. He's a bonafide irritant.
He's also one of the most competitive players ever. Not a lot of superstars can claim that they can make an entire roster better and immediately impact a team’s winning percentage in their first year with them. It's the Chris Paul effect.
The CP3 effect 🤯 pic.twitter.com/zbfd3WBMSv— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 23, 2021
There's nothing like watching Paul navigate a pick-and-roll. There's nothing like watching Paul make big men look foolish on isolations or when he shoots over them in the lane. There's nothing like having Chris Paul in the playoffs, competing as if every game were his last.
The playoffs this year have been and will continue to be great. But not having CP3 at 100 percent makes this postseason a little bit – if not a lot – worse than it could have been.
We deserve the best. We deserve Chris Paul.