It was just before 8:30 a.m. PT on Monday, not even 12 hours after free agency had begun, and Chris Paul’s Twitter account delivered the words his team had been waiting to hear for months.
Its efforts were enough. Its offseason was made.
Paul has verbally agreed to a five-year, $107 million contract extension, his agent Leon Rose told ESPNLosAngeles.com. Rose also confirmed to the Associated Press that Paul has agreed to a new deal, but did not provide any numbers regarding the contract.
The Clippers have not yet made a public statement about the agreement or the terms of the deal.
Paul’s decision comes a full nine days before he can put ink to paper;
the NBA’s moratorium on signings will end on July 10. However, he has
agreed in principle to a deal with the Clippers, a practice standard for
free agents who make up their mind before the moratorium’s conclusion.
In the week since the Clippers officially announced the hiring of Doc Rivers as coach, the uncertainty surrounding Paul’s free agency had all but disappeared. Paul wanted Rivers, and that was the tipping point. He’d re-sign, and it was just a matter of waiting for the moment that he could. There were reports, in fact, that he would make the announcement as early as Sunday night, in the hours after free agency began at 9:01 p.m. PT.
Monday’s agreement is perhaps the biggest free-agent acquisition in Clippers history, and the team has come a long way since their 32-50 record in 2010-11, a mark that capped the team’s fifth consecutive season without a playoff berth. Since then – and the acquisition of Paul before the 2011-12 season – the team has gone 96-52 over two seasons, advancing to the conference semifinals in 2012 and losing in the first round in 2013.
In the past two years, the Clippers have built a roster they believed could contend, and the May firing of coach Vinny Del Negro capped the team’s shift in identity. By acquiring Rivers, who was the league’s highest-paid coach last season, the team made a very public declaration about the value of coaching and the money it will take to win. Paul’s deal further cements the team’s financial commitment.
The contract Paul receives is what many expected, a maximum deal that’s significantly more than the four years, $88 million that potential suitors could have offered. His contract will push the Clippers over the salary cap but not yet above the luxury tax threshold; however, the team has just eight players under contract, including Paul, and their subsequent free agent signings will almost certainly push them into tax territory.