Chris Paul said he hasn’t already promised his future to the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do next season,” Paul, a former Wake Forest star, said recently. “And, no, I haven’t told anyone what I am going to do.”
That was more in response to Internet reports he’s already committed to re-signing with the Clippers, and implying he can make de facto player-personnel decisions for that franchise, than implying he’s unhappy in Los Angeles.
Paul, an unrestricted free agent in July, has no reason to publicly dismiss other options in February. But is there any reason to think he wouldn’t be happy as a Clipper? At 40-18, they lead the Pacific Division by six games.
He’s playing with another star in Blake Griffin and one of the deepest benches in the NBA. Going to L.A. has helped him draw national commercials.
So it seems far-fetched that Paul, who plays against the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night at the Staples Center, would bolt the Clippers for a North Carolina homecoming with the Bobcats.
Still, it’s conceivable this four-game West Coast trip could pair the Bobcats against some future free-agent targets. The Bobcats can be $20 million or more under the salary cap this summer. In Utah, they’ll see big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap. In Portland, they’ll see J.J. Hickson. Each is unrestricted in the summer of 2013.
The Bobcats have the resources and, as president of basketball operations Rod Higgins said at midseason, “I don’t think there’s any limits to what we’d try to do.”
A snapshot of free-agency in the summer of 2013:
Smith is a bit more complicated, in that he probably won’t re-sign with his current team, the Atlanta Hawks. But teams like the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks figure to go hard after him; those franchises have track records of success the Bobcats can’t yet match.
Hickson, a former N.C. State big man, has always been a good back-to-the-basket scorer. In addition to his 13 points per game, he averages 10.4 rebounds and shoots 57 percent from the field.
The only question is how much the defensive attention Aldridge draws bloats Hickson’s numbers.
He’s always played hungry in a way that might appeal to Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap’s approach.