Paul to sign max contract with Clippers

By on June 30, 2013

 Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul (3) heads to the hoop agains the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of Game 3 in a first-round NBA basketball playoff series, in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, April 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

Danny Johnston

Chris Paul can sign a max contract — five years, $ 107.3 million — with the Clippers on July 10.

Chris Paul got off the NBA’s free-agent board about as quickly as he gets down the lane for the L.A. Clippers.

To no one’s surprise, Paul has decided to stay with the Clippers, where he’s running the show and can sign on July 10 for a maximum contract worth $ 107.3 million over five seasons.

Once the Clippers had obtained Doc Rivers in a trade with the Celtics last week, Paul’s future in Los Angeles was cemented. Paul’s representatives sent out word on Saturday night, more 24 hours before the start of free agency, that he would not entertain any offers from other teams.

With Paul off the board, the biggest name to hit the open market will be Dwight Howard, who was scheduled to meet with the Houston Rockets at 12:01 Monday morning. Howard doesn’t want to stay in L.A. and is expected to become a Rocket. He will meet over the next few days with the Mavs, Hawks, Warriors and Lakers.

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Howard can get around $ 118 million from the Lakers over five years — $ 30 million more than he can get from Houston or any other team. But it’s not a question of money for the enigmatic superstar center. In Houston, which has advanced past the second round only once since last winning the title in 1995, Howard will not have to face the same pressure of having to win championships, as does on a daily basis in L.A., while playing alongside the team’s demanding superstar, Kobe Bryant.

Howard has told friends he doesn’t like to play in Mike D’Antoni’s system. But the Lakers say they are not going to replace the former Knick coach _ meaning Howard is wasting his time if he asks for that in return for his signature on a long-term deal.

Doc Rivers comes to the Clippers in a trade with the Celtics.

Andrew D. Bernstein

Doc Rivers comes to the Clippers in a trade with the Celtics.

Meanwhile, the Clippers didn’t have nearly as much drama surrounding Paul, the No. 1 guard/wing player in free agency. Entering his ninth season, Paul has grown his brand substantially since arriving from the New Orleans Hornets in Dec., 2011, including starring in TV commercials for State Farm Insurance.

“He never had those commercials when he played in New Orleans,” said one teammate. “So why would he ever leave Los Angeles?”

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Paul played his free-agency card to the hilt, despite this past season failing to get out of the first round for the second time in four tries. Although he denies it, he had a strong influence in getting the Clippers to part ways with Vinny Del Negro after they won their first Pacific Division title and a franchise-best 56 games.

According to league sources, Paul also wanted the Clippers to hire an African-American coach, which he has denied. But there is no disputing that he wanted Rivers, who went to L.A. for a first-round draft pick in 2015. The pick will not be lottery-protected.

Paul was never close to joining the Knicks, who don’t have the cap space, flexibility or personnel to pull off a sign-and-trade for his services. In July, 2010, Paul made a toast at Carmelo Anthony’s wedding, saying he would come to the Knicks, where he, Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire would form their own big three to compete against Miami’s Big Three.

When he made the toast, the Heat had just added LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wade, sending shockwaves throughout the NBA. Now three years later, with Miami winning the last two titles and Paul firmly entrenched as a Clipper, the toast amounted to a cruel joke on all Knicks fans.


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