“I’m just so thankful, to say this is my way of life. This is my job. They pay me to do this. They crazy. They lost their mind.” – Chris Paul
Can you think of a sweeter postgame quote from a professional athlete than this one? For the record, I’ll disagree with Paul and tell him that “they” are not the crazy ones. He is. After turning in a 27-point, 13-rebound, 15-assist triple-double in the Hornets victory against the Lakers last night, his crazy was in full effect and his swag was beyond phenomenal.
Kevin Pelton and I messaged each other almost identical sentiments about our own jobs (minus the millions in our paycheques, of course), while we were watching Chris Paul wreck the Los Angeles Lakers. Yeah, wreck. I don’t want to use the word dissect, because dissect sounds surgical and surgical sounds routine and what Chris Paul did last night was anything but routine. It was ridiculously inspiring and unbelievably awesome. It was why we love him and why we root for him, why we believe in him and why we hurt for him at so many points during the regular season when he was trying to play like he played last night while still rehabbing that surgically repaired left knee.
Games like last night are why we believe in David over Goliath. Even when a team is minus their David, as the Hornets were. Yes, that’s right. We cannot forget: The Hornets have defeated the Lakers twice in the playoffs without David West. Defeated the Lakers and all of their size and strength inside, handled the heroics of Kobe, slowed the Sixth Man of the Year in Lamar Odom and showed sometimes experience ain’t no thing as Monty Williams coached his first playoff games while Phil Jackson coached in his final opening round.
I started this postseason hoping for Kobe to get his sixth. Send Phil Jackson out in fine fashion, let Kobe Bryant win a sixth ring just in case something happens (and yes, I felt like throwing up when he went down limping), show the Heat success takes time. We’re not even out of the first round and all I can tell you is I’m rooting for game sevens and as many games as possible.
Last night was all about Chris Paul, Jarrett Jack and the fans in New Orleans. Last night, I got all I hoped for and then some.
If you’re a hoops fan, last night was everything. It was intrigue and excitment, a superstar ousting another superstar, a superstar reminding us all how great he is. A superstar being what we wanted and much more importantly, a superstar being what his team needed.
Chris Paul was brilliant. I don’t have strong enough words to describe what it felt like watching him shoot, pass and board his way to victory two days after calling it a must-win as his son sat on his lap during his postgame presser on Friday night. Consider this: Paul finished with as many rebounds as the Laker bigs combined and had just two fewer assists than the Lakers as a team. He shot 50 percent from the floor and was a perfect 11-for-11 from the free throw line. As teammate Trevor Ariza noted in their joint presser — and as Paul vehemently disagreed with — Paul might be six feet tall. It didn’t matter.
Slaying the Laker bigs, slicing through the Laker defense and dancing his way to each and every one of his hot spots, Paul willed the Hornets to that victory last night. In the final seconds with the game on the line, he says he almost took a bad shot before spying teammate and longtime friend, Jarrett Jack, and dishing to him for Jack’s first and only bucket of the game.
Another gem from Paul’s presser: “I thank the Lord I seen J. Jack out of the corner of my eye.”
Sweet sentiment, but, really, this is what Chris Paul does. It’s who he is. He makes the right decisions and the right passes and then, when the game is over, he says things like this.
He’s a special one. We’re the lucky ones who get to watch a superstar who plays with the same poise on the court that he carries himself with off of it, even when he’s calling out his mother and saying pause. The Hornets now have two wins against the two-time defending champions and have ensured they’ll play another game in New Orleans. After feeling the energy in that arena through my television, after seeing the fire and focus and fight that this team has, following in the footsteps of their leader, who knows what’ll happen. We can predict. We can suppose and assume and act like we know, but we don’t know anything for certain beyond knowing that we’ll have two of the league’s fiercest competitors facing off for at least two more games.
The crazy thing? I like the hunger I see in the eyes of Paul’s supporting cast. They shouldn’t be there. They should not have stolen a victory in Game 1. They shouldn’t have bounced back to earn one in Game 4. Except they are. And they did. And they did again.
This is what it’s about. Chris Paul’s six-foot stature coming up bigger than everyone, making sports clichés true once more. Proving that sometimes it really isn’t about the size or the strength or the experience. Sometimes it’s about a superstar and all that he has endured to make it to that glorious moment where he’s on the grandest stage his sport has to offer. Paul willed his team to that stage, rehabbed his knee to be ready, focused his mind to be right and then left his heart on the hardwood.