LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul memorizes how an opponent’s defense reacts, then exploits the system.
He can also do the same thing when the opponent is an eye exam.
“Line 8 on the chart says, ‘F-E-L-O-P-Z-D,’” Paul recited from memory Wednesday morning. “And Line 9 says, ‘D-E-F-P-O-T-E-C.”
Why stress to read the lines if the meticulous preparer could just remember them?
But for 10 years, ever since Paul’s father and brother had LASIK eye surgery during Paul’s rookie year in Oklahoma, Paul’s family stayed on him to do the same.
And for 10 years, it never happened.
“As long as I could see the rim, I felt like I was cool,” Paul said.
Until this summer.
After more prodding, already needing to rest after surgery to his fractured hand, Paul finally caved.
“My brother sent me a text the other day saying my percentages are up because of my LASIK eye surgery,” Paul said.
Whether he’s hitting shots at a higher rate because of the procedure or not, it’s hard to argue with the results.
Paul, who’s shot better than 40 percent from 3-point range for a season only once in his career and has never shot better than 41 percent from 3-point range for a full season, is currently hitting 47.3 percent of his 3-pointers in 2016-17 and 50 percent of his shots from 16 feet out to the 3-point line.
Seeing the rim can’t hurt.
“I like to think that I have something to do with it,” Paul said with a grin. “But, it might be. I do see a lot better than I did. Probably not squinting as much.”
Head coach Doc Rivers joked that he just thought Paul’s squinting during games was from the guard being upset about something he said. In reality, though, Rivers said every year the Clippers encourage their players to make sure their eyes are right.
“We don’t actually know when it started going bad for him, but it is important,” Rivers said. “It is amazing, sometimes from year to year, how different their vision is. When you have point guards, it’s pretty important you have clear vision.”
And whether Paul wanted to admit it or not, there was room for improvement. The squinting was the sign C.J. always noticed.
“He squinted bad,” C.J. said. “I was like, ‘Man, if you get LASIK, you don’t have to squint. He was a nervous wreck.”
Paul, admittedly somewhat of a hypochondriac, isn’t afraid to admit that, saying LASIK was one of the most nerve-racking things he’d ever decided to do.
But he had his older brother’s success story to know how easy it could be.
“That’s one of the best things I ever did,” C.J. said. “The next morning I went to a doctor to get a checkup, then that night I sat in a suite at the game.”
C.J. went through with the procedure in Oklahoma after years of wearing glasses. He could never put contacts in his eyes, and he never wore anything when he played basketball, so he thought it would be a prudent solution.
“I actually went and watched somebody have it done - just a random person,” C.J. said.
The whole process took roughly eight minutes.
“I was like, ‘I could do this,’” C.J. said.
And if C.J.’s success story wasn’t enough, it couldn’t hurt that Paul had ophthalmologist Kerry Assil, the same doctor who successfully performed LASIK on Richard Hamilton, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, among other athletes, to go to.
“My doctor who did the surgery, who was amazing by the way, his other clients, he said their percentages went up that next season,” Paul said.
Soon after Paul went through the procedure, Paul George did the same, right before the Olympics. As of Wednesday afternoon, George is hitting a career-high 41.4 percent of his 3-point shots this year.
Meanwhile, Chris Paul enters a matchup against the Grizzlies having hit 17 of his last 27 3-point attempts. The eye drops Paul had to take a few times a day for a few weeks after the procedure seems well worth the pay-off.
“I just think he can see everything clearer,” C.J. said. “You don’t see him squinting, because I look for it.”