Paul optimistic about healthy offseason

Friday, April 29, 2011
By: Jim Eichenhofer,

Unlike a year ago, when Chris Paul was beginning his rehabilitation from knee surgery, the four-time All-Star point guard enjoys a clean bill of health as the 2011 offseason commences. That’s one reason why the 6-foot point guard’s outlook has brightened considerably, after dealing with three separate injuries in 2009-10 that caused him to miss a total of 37 games.

At Friday’s Hornets season-ending exit interviews, the 25-year-old joked – at least I think he was joking – that if any potential challengers approach him this summer, he’ll be ready to drop everything and play a game of one-on-one. “I think the most fulfilling thing going into this summer is that, tomorrow, if I wake up and want to go hoop, I can,” Paul said. “Last (year) I couldn’t do that, because I was hurt. I’m just happy, because if I’m walking down the street and somebody says they can beat me, I can go hoop.”

That wasn’t the case in the early portion of summer 2010 when the Wake Forest product was healing from knee surgery. His physical activity was limited for a large chunk of the summer, before he reported to New Orleans in the fall for training camp. Though Paul has been extremely reluctant to use injury as an excuse for poor individual games or Hornets losses, he acknowledged that he’s trying to regain some of the explosiveness he had earlier in his career.

“I’ll be getting my legs as a strong as possible,” Paul said of one of his primary objectives in upcoming months. “(And) just keeping working on my athleticism. I will make sure that next year I come back on two healthy knees. I’ve just to keep getting my legs stronger so I can get that lift that I once had.”

Asked whether he believes the Hornets have enough firepower to compete with the elite teams in the NBA, Paul referenced the hard-fought, first-round series defeat to the Lakers as evidence that the team is already on its way to attaining that level. “No question,” Paul said. “We were there now. Things just didn’t go our way. The only way for us is up. As long as we continue to get better and stay healthy, we’re going to be right there.”