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Chris Paul eager to avoid NBA Championship fate of Charles Barkley

The 37-year old Phoenix Suns point guard led his side to a 2-1 lead over the Pelicans as he seeks to add the one thing missing from his career

Chris Paul: the greatest NBA player never to win a ring?
Jonathan BachmanAFP

If Chris Paul is forced to finally retire without winning an NBA Championship, few will dispute that he will be one of the greatest players in the history of the game to call it a day without a ring to his name. Because, simply put, Chris Paul is one of the greatest players in NBA history. But he has no intention of becoming part of the club of great players never to have won a championship, and if he has to fight against that fate right up until the final game of his career, he will do so. Paul is two weeks shy of his 37th birthday but he continues to be decisive, as he was in New Orleans as the Phoenix Suns took a 2-1 lead in the Western Conference first-round playoff series. People talk about the longevity of LeBron James and with good reason, but Paul belongs in the same conversation, both players capable of doing things players of their age should not be able to do.

Against the Pelicans, Paul put in a fourth quarter that will live long in the memory. With the game on the line, the Suns went into the final 12 minutes winning by two, and Paul took the reins: showing intelligence, effectiveness, self-belief and nerves of steel, the point guard scored 19 of his 28 points in the fourth, and 15 of the first 23 the Suns hit in the final stretch. He ended the game with 14 assists, which added to his tally from the pervious game took his total to 28, the highest number of assists without a turnover in two consecutive playoff games in NBA history. Furthermore, it was the 51st playoff game in which Paul made 10 or more assists, placing him fourth on the all-time list.

Booker the future but Paul far from done

It may that Devin Booker, who is sidelined with injury, is the future and even the present of the franchise, one who could go on to become the highest scorer and possibly the greatest player in Phoenix history, but nobody makes the difference better than Paul at this stage of the season. That is why it is key for the Suns to get Booker back as quickly as possible, to spare the legs of his veteran teammate. Monty Williams seems to have hit on the perfect interim formula with Landry Shamet. Not for his scoring prowess – he managed only five points against New Orleans in Game 3 – but because he frees up Paul to create and he keeps Cameron Payne, who has so far not proven to be up to the task, off the court for longer periods.

The Pelicans played well in Game 3 but were unable to stop a force of nature from powering towards his ultimate goal. Paul is ruthless when he needs to be. The Wake Forest prospect has gone on to win two Olympic Golds, an All-Star MVP, a Rookie of the Year Award and has made 12 All-Star selections, but he has no intention of going out without a bang.


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