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Scott Howard-Cooper

Chris Paul picks up his dribble against O.J. Mayo in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
Chris Paul says his free-agent future will not be a distraction this season.

Free-agent frenzy? Clippers' Paul insists that's not for him


Posted Oct 2, 2012 11:18 AM

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Quick. Someone come up with a name.

It has become tradition. The Dwightmare in 2011-12. The 'Melo-drama the season before. The season before that, several months were handed over to a single guy: The Summer of LeBron.

Chris Paul insists he does not need a fancy title for his upcoming free agency. No catchy name, and certainly not his own climate. This will not be another nine-month long searing migraine of fans in agony, the media tripping over itself and the Clippers being on the clock to find a trade, or else. Not if Paul has anything to say about it.

"At the end of the season, I'll evaluate everything. But it's no secret. Everybody knows I love it here," Paul said. "I love our team, I love everything that's going on."

While that won't completely douse speculation, it slams the door on most doubt. It is also significant given the many reports that he offered a toast at Carmelo Anthony's wedding in 2010, while with the Hornets, that included a campaign to get Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Paul joined on the Knicks.

Paul has seen many of his friends go through the same final season before free agency and either leverage their way into a new home or leave with huge contracts. Anthony and Stoudemire made it happen in New York. LeBron James did so in Miami.

Paul also knows it is possible to stop the madness before it begins. So he hopes to stop it.

"Everybody's situation is different," Paul said in a quiet moment at the Clippers practice facility. "For me, I just try not to think about it. I feel like I have so much going on on a daily basis that I can't think about what's going to happen at the end of the season. Right now, I'm focused on getting my thumb healthy (after surgery) and getting our team chemistry right and what's going on in our season."

He is asked if he has discussed the topic with the friends who have gone through it before.

"I don't talk to them about it, because it's not my time," Paul replied. "It's not time for that."

Except that it is. It's exactly the time for that.

The season before free agency is almost always when the crazy train pulls into town. Pressures are applied, either directly or through back channels. That sets up a richer deal in re-signing rather than a pay cut that comes with a contract with a new team. The swarm of speculation begins. Distractions are created.

Of course it's time.

"I sort of went through one of those the year before last in New Orleans," Paul said of 2010-11, his final season with the Hornets. Reports about his desire to leave became constant and distractions mounted until management was finally driven into submission. "Been there, done that. For me, I don't pay much attention to it. I wouldn't even have thought about that today until you asked me the question. I think that says a lot about our team, about everything that's going on around here. We don't focus on that."

He even has a routine to go with it.

When asked "What do you think happens on July 1st," Paul answers "July 1st?" as if it's a date that is supposed to mean something to him.

"When?" he says.

"Next summer."

"I don't know," Paul says. "It's a good question. July 1st. I don't know. What's that, the first day of free agency?"

As if someone entering his eighth season and who is a member of the board of the players' union didn't know.

"I didn't," Paul says. "I didn't. So, July 1st. Hopefully I'm getting prepared to sign a new contract."

That's his hope. It's the Clippers' hope that he re-signs with them. And it's everyone's hope that no cutesy name will need to be attached to Paul's impending free agency. Let's not need a name.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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