What’s so strange about an insurance man falling short of doing all the things he makes a living out of promising you he would do?
In that respect, Chris Paul isn’t any different from the alter ego he plays in all those hilarious State Farm commercials that seem to play out on a constant loop in homes across the globe this time of year. But the chuckles undoubtedly have now gone quiet in L.A., where a modern-day, NBA hoops equivalent of Casey at the Bat has yet again just played out with Paul and the Clips once more going down with a big whiff.
Rookie-of-the year honors, seven All-Star game appearances and two Olympic gold medals aside, all the underachieving is enough to now have some openly wondering if after nine seasons of having not led a team past the second round of the NBA playoffs the time has come to cash in all those policies advertising Paul as clutch game performer.
Paul finished the Clippers’ season-ending Game 6 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference semifinals with 25 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds, but you don’t have to have Cliff Paul’s acumen or expertise to know the numbers don’t always add up.
For as much as any that or even the 20 points, 10 assists and four rebounds he averaged over the entire series, Paul’s performance will forever be symbolized by some of the mind-boggling decisions he made in back-to-back sub par fourth quarters, namely fouling Russell Westbrook on a desperation three-point heave in Game 5 and a myriad of forced passes leading to turnovers and Thunder fast breaks over the last two games of the series — including two costly miscues in the final 14 seconds of the aforementioned contest.
The overriding reviews won’t help. They now date all the way back to Paul’s days as an All-American at Wake Forest, where he, nonetheless, failed to ever lead his team past the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament despite being ranked as high as a No. 2 seed.
After his latest meltdown, Paul stepped to the Staples Center postgame podium as if it were the set of one of those State Farm takes and tried to make sense of it all.
“It’s a long summer, I’ll tell you that much,” he said upon being peppered with one question after another about yet another failed playoff run. “I prepare every off-season like I always do. It’s not just to get out of the second round. It’s to win a championship. I don’t know anybody in our league that plays for the Western Conference finals. That’s not enough.”
But it’s more than Chris Paul, heretofore, has been able to deliver. And all the Cliff Paul salesman like talk in the world can’t change that.