Chris Paul has opportunity with OKC Thunder to rebuild his reputation

Rajon Rondo, punches Chris Paul fight just one of many incidents by CP3, OKC Thunder (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images)
Rajon Rondo, punches Chris Paul fight just one of many incidents by CP3, OKC Thunder (Photo by Kevin Sullivan/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images) /

Chris Paul must seize the opportunity while with the OKC Thunder to shift his negative reputation in order to raise interest from contending teams.

When OKC Thunder General Manager traded Russell Westbrook to add draft picks to his swelling cupboard the thought was the accompanying acquisition of Chris Paul would result in another quick trade. Those initial thoughts quickly shifted gears for several reasons.

Given the robust free agency jumpstart there simply aren’t teams with available cap space to take on Paul’s huge contract. Contrary to popular belief, Paul didn’t invest ample time as the President of Player’s Association to change a rule he’s currently benefiting from just to make less money now.

Specifically, the “over 36 rule” was shifted to “over 38 rule” where veterans were enabled to sign long term guaranteed contracts past the age of 36 (to 38). That change is why Paul’s last contract includes the final year of his salary netting him $44,211,146 as he turns 37.

Moreover, even if Paul were open to negotiating his overall salary down for a buyout there are two factors at play which deem this an unlikely move. For that scenario to happen first the Thunder are limited to offering just 15 percent of their current salary via league rules. Kyle Singler‘s buyout is still on the books which reduce that number by close to a million dollars.

This means Paul would have to concede taking half of his $124 million salary.  While that action alone is unlikely it’s equally questionable Thunder GM Sam Presti would be willing to eat $62 million when his track record suggests otherwise (see Carmelo Anthony as an example or even Singler which Presti resisted buying out for years).

Overcoming the existing criticism of Paul:

Once considered a member of the top 10 players CP3 has regressed to arguably the top 40. The other issue is how his peers view him. Many previous teammates aren’t exactly singing his praises. Glen “Big Baby” Davis was the first player I recall to criticize Paul back in 2017 on the Colin Cowherd show when he infamously dubbed CP3 “dribble, dribble, dribble”.

Davis’ implied Paul is a player who uses up shot clocks dribbling the air out of the ball passing it with little time left on the clock. He further stated Rajon Rondo (Paul’s nemesis) is a better leader than Paul.

Consider the summer of 2015 when DeAndre Jordan was prepared to sign with the Mavericks in free agency. It took all of the Clippers including Paul to convince DJ things would be different as Paul was frequently seen yelling at the big man during games.

This did nothing to help Paul’s reputation. DJ re-signed with LA (and coincidentally appeared on a few State Farm commercials) but eventually left to join Dallas when his next opportunity arose and again CP3 was cited as a big part of the reason for DJ’s departure as Kevin Arnovitz’ article points out.

"The core of the team had been together for more than three years, and tempers were wearing thin. Jordan and Chris Paul had gotten into it more than once, which led Jordan to start seriously contemplating what it might be like to play elsewhere in 2015-16.He was tired of Paul’s constant barking and petty gestures, like distributing high-fives to the three other guys on the floor following a timeout but somehow freezing out Jordan."

Blake Griffin had issues with Paul as teammates as they both tried to seize control as a leader. Something that came up in a document outlining Griffin’s palimony case.

Kenyon Martin played with Paul on the Clippers for a season. Martin went as far as calling Paul a politician who works to get along with upper management but his locker room antics and “selfishness” to get his own stats put him in a position where teammates don’t trust him. Cowherd asks Martin of the six to seven Hall of Famers he was teammates with is it fair to say Paul is the least liked and he quickly responds yes. Clearly, Martin isn’t a CP3 fan.

After the Rajon Rondo – Chris Paul fight/spitting incident Chris Broussard told the Undisputed he spoke with a Clippers executive who confirmed Paul points fingers at teammates for mistakes but takes no accountability when he messes up (starts at 8:14 of the video below).

Joining the Rockets didn’t help CP3 shed his difficult image as once again Chris Paul had issues this time specifically with the Rockets superstar James Harden. My favorite new TV analyst Kendrick Perkins (who keeps it real) adds fuel to the fire with his comments on Paul getting a pass for being a bad teammate.

Note the early part of this video which shows an altercation between James Harden and Paul arguing on the bench (Harden slaps Paul’s hand). The interesting takeaway here is Ryan Anderson is visible in the background. While the troubles between Harden and Paul became more public this season obviously the timelines began earlier as Anderson didn’t play in Houston this past season.

The common denominator about why Paul has issues with teammates is his ego, lack of accountability and how he gets on everyone’s back instead of encouraging them.

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Although there are vets on the OKC Thunder there are a number of youngsters who’ll be influenced by how Paul acts while he plays in Oklahoma.

It’s a bit of a tightrope the organization is walking because it’s important they continue to have proper leadership and retain the culture and identity which Russell Westbrook and Nick Collison did an amazing job creating.

It behooves CP3 to showcase his best self on the court and along with his production that would also include leadership. Charles Barkley once called Paul the best leader in the NBA. Given Paul wants to play for a contender he needs to seize this opportunity to remind everyone why he is a good leader and contributor.

Next. Lessons Sam Presti can learn from counterparts in rebuild. dark

Paul’s ability to accomplish that goal will be key to moving him assuming that remains the goal of the Thunder.