2009-10 Season in Review: Chris Paul
By: Jim Eichenhofer,
April 15, 2010 begins its look back at the 2009-10 season with player-by-player analysis of the team, opening with Chris Paul, who made his third straight All-Star appearance:

What happened:
Unfortunately for the 6-foot point guard, 2009-10 will be remembered primarily for the injuries that sidelined him during three separate junctures of the season. He missed a total of 37 games, including sitting out 25 consecutive games from Jan. 30 through March 20 following knee surgery. He also was set back by a severe ankle sprain in November and a torn finger ligament in April, combining to cause the other dozen DNPs.

New Orleans went 14-23 in the 37 games without its three-time All-Star point guard, but was 23-22 when he played. The peak of the season for the Hornets probably took place on Jan. 27 at Golden State, when they successfully closed a difficult five-game Western Conference road trip at 4-1, improving their overall record to 25-20. Paul was injured during the next game, on Jan. 29 vs. Chicago, and New Orleans went just 8-17 over the following 25 games, significantly damaging its chances of reaching the postseason. The Hornets wound up missing the playoffs for the first time since their full-time return to the Big Easy prior to the 2007-08 season.

This is the first time in the past two or three years that Ive been done in April, Paul said of the early ending to the season. I almost dont know what to do with my time. But you always have goals and different things like that. I think (the injuries are) going to drive me and motivate me to get better for next season.

Although Paul spent a large chunk of the season fielding questions from reporters about his health and injury status, he was again outstanding when he was in uniform. The biggest area in which he showed improvement was his long-range shooting, raising his three-point percentage to a career-best 40.9. Asked in April whether he believed he improved as a player during his fifth NBA season, Paul responded, I did, especially before my knee injury. I felt like I made a lot of progress with everything, (especially) getting stronger and shooting (better).

Pauls previous season-high in three-point shooting had been 36.9, which is right around the league average. If he can continue to be listed among the premier long-range shooters among point guards next season and beyond, it will add another feared dimension to his versatile offensive game.

Best game:
As always, there were multiple instances to choose from in this category, but you have to give the nod to Pauls vintage performance on Dec. 18 vs. Denver. In the Hornets lone victory over the Nuggets in four matchups this season, the Wake Forest product amassed 30 points and 19 assists.

Mere statistics dont come close to telling the entire story, however: Paul put the Hornets on his back while carrying them to an impressive second-half comeback. Denver led by eight points early in the third quarter, before Paul racked up 26 second-half points, often by draining a jumper from 18 to 20 feet. After putting on a one-man show against a very good Denver team, he finished 13-for-20 from the field. He also nearly recorded a triple-double, grabbing nine rebounds in the 98-92 win.

What's next:
Paul said this week that he will play for USA Basketball, but only if his body recuperates adequately from his recent knee and finger injuries.

My biggest thing right now is to get as healthy as possible, he said. (In summer 2009) I felt like I did a great job of preparing my body to be ready for the season, but obviously it wasnt good enough. Im definitely going to rest right now, enjoy my (11-month-old) son and get back to it.

Other than a potential appearance with USA Basketball (the World Basketball Championships will be held in Turkey), Paul expects to spend the majority of his summer divvying his time between New Orleans and his native North Carolina.

I have a few basketball camps back home (in North Carolina), but I live here (in New Orleans), Paul said. Im going to go home and see my family, but for the most part I am going to be here.


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