Not that pairing Dwight Howard with James Harden wasn’t enough. For now—the Rockets still need one more star if they wish to contend for a championship—it is.
But it could have been even better.
According to ESPN Grantland’s Bill Simmons, Chris Paul threatened to leave the Los Angeles Clippers to join up with Howard and Harden on the Rockets if the team didn’t complete a deal with the Boston Celtics that brought in Doc Rivers:
o Chris Paul, who basically told the Clippers that after they squashed the first incarnation of their Doc Rivers trade. Chris didn’t like that. He let them know he was heading to Houston to team up with Dwight. And he wasn’t kidding. For about 36 hours, Morey probably felt like all 11 guys in Ocean’s Eleven. You know what happened next: The Clippers blinked, the Doc trade got revived and finished, and the Clippers were offering Chris 107 million reasons to play for him. Crisis averted. The lesson, as always: Chris Paul runs the Clippers.
First, Paul absolutely runs the Clippers. Obviously. No doubt about it. If they were owned by any man other than Donald Sterling, the team probably would have sprung for a horse-drawn carriage made of gold and the tears of unicorns to bring him in and out of the locker room every game by now. True story.
Second, I don’t doubt Paul made a threat when the Rivers “trade” almost fell through. Though it was probably an indirect threat that he either a) delivered indirectly, b) enacted politely, saying something along the lines of “Mr. Sterling, if you don’t land Mr. Rivers, I will be forced to explore other avenues in Houston. Please still love me.” c) denied it to the bone or d) all of the above.
Finally, I have my doubts about how plausible this scenario would have been. With Howard, the Rockets have $63.6 million on their books next season. Even if Houston was somehow able to dump Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik in exchange for nothing, that would only take $16.8 million away from their bottom line, putting them at $46.8 million. Paul wasn’t about to take that kind of a discount. And neither was Superman himself.
A sign-and-trade would have always been possible, but then the Rockets would have had to assemble a proposal around both Asik and Lin to make the salaries match, a deal that just wouldn’t have made much sense for the Clippers.
Am I saying Paul’s threat was then an empty one? Not necessarily. I’m not even saying there was a threat at all. But if there indeed was, there’s no guarantee he would have been able to get to the Rockets. Plenty of maneuvering would have had to be done on Houston’s behalf, and the stars would have had to align. Literally.
That’s neither he nor there, though. Paul is a member of the Clippers and the proud owner of a $100-plus million contract. He’s not going anywhere anytime soon, even if they lose in the first round of the playoffs. Again.
Now, about that horse-drawn carriage…
Dan Favale is a firm believer in the three-pointer as well as the notion that defense doesn’t always win championships. His musings can be found at Bleacherreport.com in addition to TheHoopDoctors.com. Follow @danfavale on Twitter for his latest posts and all things NBA.