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Chris Paul has done so much for Oklahoma City basketball.
His rise to stardom began in OKC when the New Orleans Hornets needed a temporary home after Hurricane Katrina. The storybook successful marriage of CP3 and OKC predated the Supersonics and Seattle divorce which led to Oklahoma being the rebound guy getting the Thunder.
His reunion with OKC restocked the Thunder treasure trove with two 1st round picks and two pick swaps.
His Thunderenaissance returned another 1st round pick, Kelly Oubre (aka another 1st round pick if the Warriors would stop playing 2D checkers), Ricky Rubio (aka part of the Poku package) and Ty Jerome (aka Where’s Waldo?).
And on Wednesday night, Paul tried his best to help secure a bright future for the Thunder by dishing out one last OKC assist: getting one loss closer to a top 5 draft pick. CP3 rewound the clock to 2020 and scored 32 points on 12-21 shooting, singlehandedly almost taking down all his former students.
Problem Paul had was passing on his clutch gene to his young proteshai.
Down 5 with just over 5 minutes left in the game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored or assisted on 13 of the Thunder’s final 16 points. Meanwhile, Chris Paul’s last three plays were a missed midrange shot, an airballed 3 pointer and a behind the back pass that sailed out of bounds. Hanging onto a 1 point lead with 17.8 seconds remaining, SGA hit four straight clutch free throws. Game, blouses.
This Suns team features two All Stars from last season in CP3 and Devin Booker, and the player taken #1 overall in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s draft class in Deandre Ayton.
Shai has played better than all three of them this season.
Which begs the question on this first day of NBA All Star voting: should Shai be a 2021 All Star?
Either five or six guards will make the Western Conference team.
Luka Doncic, Steph Curry and Damian Lillard are locks. That’s three.
While I would argue SGA has had a better season than Donovan Mitchell, Spida’s All Star selection last year and being the leading scorer and face of the franchise with the best record in the NBA essentially locks up his spot. That’s four.
Apologies to CJ McCollum (superb start but missing the rest of the season), Ja Morant (best Grizzlie since Big Country but has missed too many games), De’Aaron Fox (lol), Mike Conley (teammate stealing his spot), Jamal Murray (Bubble hype popped), DeMar DeRozan (has a great case but DeNope) and CP3 (his body of work needs more meat), but the fifth spot should come down to the Suns’ young star Booker and the Thunder’s young star Shai.
So let’s take a look at the numbers.
21.8 points, 6.4 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 50.4 FG%, 37.8 3P%, 2.8 turnovers, record: 8-9.
22.9 points, 4.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, 47.3 FG%, 34.1 3P%, 4.1 turnovers, record: 8-8.
Booker’s team, with fellow superstar CP3 and Ayton, is supposed to be a top 6 seed. SGA’s team, who traded away superstar CP3 to tank, is supposed to be 15th in the West. They have the same number of wins.
OKC vs. Phoenix was eye-opening. Thunder fans knew Shai had All-Star selections on the horizon, but the Suns shone the future is now. CP3 and Booker were All-Stars last year, and SGA has surpassed them both this season.
Chris Paul has been helping build Oklahoma City basketball for more than a decade. But his greatest contribution may have been mentoring the man who will lead Oklahoma City basketball for the next decade.
- Al Horford was 5-5 from 3, scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. This man needs to have a baby every week.
- POKU’S D MADE CP3 SHOOT AN AIRBALL. If you saw it, you know.
- Paul vs. Poku seems as good a matchup as Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul, but late in the third quarter, Aleksej had CP3 on the ropes.
- Serb Ibaka had 3 blocks on the night.
- You know you might be a Thunder fan if… You swear Chris Paul has flopped more in the 4th quarter than he did all last season. Because he had 0 flops last season.
- Rookie Theo Maledon had the best game of his career. 11 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 3-6 from 3. Theo is closer to Chris Paul Jr.’s age than Chris Paul’s age… by 8 years.
- Horford with the ultimate classy veteran move: could’ve ended the game with a dunk, or dished it to Maledon who was trailing for a dunk, but he stopped under the bucket and gave the 19-year-old the “no, not classy” look. A+ Dad skills.
- Dort looked like the Lu of Old with a 4-8 shooting night from 3.
- Mark Daigneault comparing SGA and CP3: “Those are two players that care about making the team better.”
- Dort on guarding Paul: “He’s a great player. I felt like I could’ve done a better job. He had a good game. I gotta do better.” And that’s why Dort is already an elite defender.
- Shai on Maledon’s big night: “Theo stepped up big. Biggest thing with Theo is I want him to be confident. Sometimes he’s a little timid. I remember I was that way as a rookie. That’s what I’m here for, to keep his head up. He delivered for us down the stretch. I’m proud of him.”
- Up next: the Thunder return home to OKC… as do The Broingtons.