In the Netflix series “Stranger Things,” a group of nerdy Indiana pre-teens encounter all manner of trouble from alien forces that threaten to take over their small town.
In the first season, one of the kids goes missing and his older brother gets sentimental as their favorite song — The Clash’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go” — plays in the background. Later in the season, it’s used as a promise of stranger things to come.
Well, the Houston Rockets missed out on a chance to end Golden State’s title reign but came up short after their most complete guard pulled up long before the home stretch. The 4-3 series loss revealed that there isn’t a whole lot separating the best two teams in the league. Shoot, the Rockets didn’t need an other-worldly performance to send the Warriors home.
They just needed point guard Chris Paul.
Let’s tell it like it is. James Harden is a great player but Paul brought a sense of toughness and accountability that was missing in coach Mike D’Antoni’s locker room the previous two seasons. Harden turned in an MVP season because of his hard work in the offseason, but any follower of the game noticed that Harden brought his hard-hat to the gym on a more consistent basis because of his new teammate’s infectious desire to compete every night.
As H-Town’s tears dry after Monday’s what-could-have-been loss to Golden State in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals, that ’80s Clash classic should be playing on a loop over the loud speakers at the Toyota Center.
Should he stay or should he go?
Paul willed his team to the brink of a Finals appearance against LeBron James, but his latest ill-timed playoff injury took away any chance of a series win. Now the franchise has to address the very real possibility that Paul has played his last game in Houston.
“I know (for) the fans of Houston, especially myself, to have him on your side is incredible,” D’Antoni said. “He’ll be back. Like I said, he’ll be even better. We’ll be better.”
He’ll be back? In Houston? Hey Mike, go get that in writing.
Paul, 33, just became a free agent and something tells me his agent’s cell phone has been buzzing with offers. While LeBron has the little matter of playing in his eighth consecutive NBA Finals, he has made no secret of his affection for Paul, a former AAU rival and Olympic teammate. The two are godfathers of each another’s kids and would make for an interesting pairing in 2019.
James may stay in Cleveland (not likely) but the team’s aging roster and lack of cap flexibility could lead him to the Lakers, Sixers or even the Rockets, if GM Daryl Morey can figure out how to make it happen.
You read in this space last summer that Paul was a one-year rental who would eventually join LeBron for 2019 on a team of their choosing since both have expiring contracts at the end of the season. But CP3’s obvious emotional connection with D’Antoni, Harden and the city, which experienced $125 billion worth of devastation during Hurricane Harvey, is a real indicator he will stick around.
“He’s what’s right about basketball, why we get into it,” D’Antoni said. “What he does in the community and how he speaks out for the rights of people, there are just so many layers to him as a person that I like being around him. It makes me a better person.”
Then there’s the money. If Paul stays, the Rockets would have to pay the league’s luxury tax — the cost of doing business these days — but could offer him $205 million over the next five seasons with a starting salary of $35.3 million in 2019.
“Obviously, when we get someone as great as Chris Paul, the plan is to keep him here,” Morey told The Ringer in April. “He’ll have a choice when the season ends. We feel like we set things up well. It should be an easy choice for him.”
If you’re looking for a glass half-full, Paul reportedly just put his Los Angeles-area mansion up for sale for $11.5 million. And if that glass is half-empty? He also has reportedly put his mansion in The Woodlands on the market for about $7 million just six months after he moved in.
Sounds like a man keeping his options open. This is business and Paul’s next destination — be it Houston or somewhere else — will be his last as an elite player. So this is the most important decision of his storied career.
We know the Rockets are scary good with him.
Hey Clash, he should stay.