Chris Paul is a 27-year-old star with several prime years ahead of him. So why is he driving his Clippers as if he and they are running out of time?
"Teams that have a chance to win the championship, they know -- they really know when they have a chance,'' said Paul, the Clippers' six-time All-Star point guard. "We're trying to work our way there because we're not there yet."
He wants them to focus on reaching the NBA Finals and winning a championship this season. It's asking a lot of the Clippers and himself -- neither the franchise nor Paul has ever played beyond the second round -- but he has a story to go with his demand.
"My very first year in the playoffs, I was playing for Byron Scott and the night before our first playoff game we had a huge dinner for our team,'' Paul said of his third season with the Hornets. "Coach made everybody go around the room to say something, and not just players either -- your wife or your girlfriend had to say something, because they're just as involved in the team as we are.
"I remember one of my teammates -- might have been Mike James -- said, 'When you're in this league, this opportunity doesn't come along that often where you're actually on a team where you have a chance to win a championship.' And I honestly thought our team in '07-08 could win a championship. And I remember sitting there while he was talking and I was thinking to myself, I'm going to have a chance to win every year. That was the year I was runner-up for the MVP. I'm thinking to myself, Man, I don't know what he's talking about -- as long as I'm out here we're going to have a chance to win it every single year, you know what I mean? But that's not the case.''