DAN BICKLEY

Chris Paul is an investment in Booker short-term, Ayton long-term

Nov 16, 2020, 4:43 PM | Updated: 5:34 pm
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)...
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Cardinals produced the play of the year on Sunday. It was approximately 5:37 p.m.

That’s when Kyler Murray uncorked an outrageous throw while running for his life. His pass fell like pennies from heaven, landing safely in the vice grips that DeAndre Hopkins uses for hands. In one toss of the football, the Cardinals went from the brink of despair to atop of the NFC West.

By late-morning Monday, the Suns stole the Cardinals’ thunder by reportedly trading with the Thunder, acquiring veteran Chris Paul in a blockbuster deal. It was approximately 11:18 a.m.

Welcome to the big leagues. Moments like these don’t happen very often in Phoenix, and certainly not in consecutive news cycles within the span of 17 hours.

This groundbreaking confluence of events is an exhilarating statement from a low-rent sports market and low-budget owners, and any minute now, you almost expect the Diamondbacks to announce the re-signing of Trevor Bauer.

Here are the important takeaways from the Suns’ acquisition of Paul:

Much credit to general manager James Jones. He convinced Robert Sarver to pay for an expensive coach with real pedigree. It’s working. Now, he’s convinced a cautious owner to sign a 35-year old player who will make over $85 million in the next two seasons.

And props to you, Robert, for writing the check.

Many fans don’t like the move. Please understand that Paul is not like Shaq, Emmitt Smith or Terrell Suggs. He’s not an athlete arriving in Arizona with a coughing muffler and an engine light flashing, a transitioning athlete coming for the soft landing and an easy road to retirement.

You need to get over Kelly Oubre Jr. The outgoing Suns fashionista was a remarkable talent, a great source of energy and an organic fan favorite. But he rarely passed the ball. He chose not to play in the bubble even though he was fully healthy and working out alongside his teammates in Orlando. He chose to protect his future earnings, compromising the Suns’ best chance at making the playoffs in a decade, sitting out even though Sarver expected him to play.

Oubre was protecting his own future first, and he gave the Suns just enough time to prove they did not need him to win basketball games.

There was too much bro-mancing on the 2019-2020 Suns. Ricky Rubio led with love for all, showing the softest of touches. His fire never burned those who ventured too close. Meanwhile, Oubre and Deandre Ayton prided themselves on their wardrobes and sense of style. The Suns were too in love with themselves, their dope souls and what they saw in the mirror to ever truly dislike what they saw in the Western Conference standings.

If NBA titles were won on a fashion runway, the Suns were on the brink of a dynasty. Paul will change the locker room vibe overnight. For the better.

Paul’s notoriously loud brand of leadership will fill this team’s deepest void. He will be an extension of Monty Williams, and not a conflicting voice. He is an investment in the short-term happiness of Devin Booker and the long-term growth of Ayton.

Both are important to the long-term health of the franchise. And the latter is in for a much-needed wakeup call. Miami’s Jimmy Butler and Portland’s Damian Lillard were praised for their leadership skills 2020. So was Paul, who led the NBA players association through one of the most jarring periods in history.

I can’t think of anyone better to help the Suns capitalize on their investment in Ayton, a lovable goof who is about to find out that basketball is a serious business. Like any other profession.

Dan Bickley

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Chris Paul is an investment in Booker short-term, Ayton long-term