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NBA Rumors: Should Clippers Be Worried About Chris Paul?

July 26, 2012 – Dan Favale

It seemed like a forgone conclusion that Chris Paul would re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, when in fact, it’s not at all.

There’s plenty to like about playing for the Clippers these days. Blake Griffin is on board for the next five years, DeAndre Jordan isn’t going anywhere and veterans like Chauncey Billups, Jamal Crawford and Grant Hill are all angling toward ending their careers in Los Angeles.

So, with that in mind, why hasn’t Paul—like Griffin—signed an extension? One has been offered to him, that much is a certainty, but according Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, the point guard has elected to keep his options open heading into next summer.

“I know why I didn’t sign my extension,” Paul said on Sunday before the U.S. Olympic team practiced. “I’m going to play this season out and see what my options are.”

Now, as surprising as such sentiments may seem, they do make sense to a certain extent. If Paul plays out this season, he’s eligible for a five-year contract worth $108 million next summer, identical to the one Deron Williams just signed with the Brooklyn Nets. And barring a sign-and-trade, the Clippers are the only team who can offer Paul that much. So again, from a financial standpoint, his decision to wait makes sense.

But what if it’s more than that? What if Paul is truly plotting his escape from Tinseltown as I pen this? What then?

The reality is, it’s highly unlikely Paul’s dead set on leaving already. He has a nice core surrounding him, headlined by a fellow superstar. So, to believe Paul already has one foot out the door is shortsighted.

That said, to believe he’s all in with the Clippers is naive as well. While they look talented on paper, they are plagued by a slew of uncertainty. Billups, Caron Butler and Hill are all injury-prone, Crawford has shown signs of becoming more erratic, Lamar Odom remains a mystery and DeAndre Jordan is as one-dimensional as ever. There’s simply no guarantee that this squad isn’t headed for another early playoff exit.

To complicate matters, after this summer, the Clippers have absolutely no financial flexibility. If it doesn’t work out with this team, re-tooling the roster without blowing it up becomes damn near impossible. And if Paul senses that this group is headed nowhere significant by season’s end, then yes, he’ll begin planning his escape routes.

Yet that’s so incredibly far down the road, and truth be told, unless Paul is planning to abscond to Dallas with Dwight Howard next summer, there’s hardly a better realistic situation for him to explore.

Is that cause for the Clippers to rest easy? Absolutely not. They are still tasked with proving to Paul they’re title contenders. And the only way they can do that is by winning games, by beating the NBA’s best teams and well, by actually contending for a title.

If the Clippers can do that, then they’ll have nothing to worry about. At that point, Paul’s future in Los Angeles will sort itself out.

If they don’t, though?

Then an early playoff exit will be the least of their worries.

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.

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