Thompson: Chris Paul and Steph Curry joining forces prove life is a flat circle

Chris Paul is a Warrior.

This reality alone is enough to wonder if we have been transported to another universe. But it gets even more trippy.

Chris Paul may be coming off the bench for the Steph Curry-led Warriors and will certainly take on a role as Curry’s co-star. Ten years ago that would be blasphemous. Five years ago, unlikely. A day ago, I would have said no.

Looks like Curry was right. He said “it’s not 2014 no mo” and he was not lying.

Chris Paul is a Warrior.

It’s like Green Goblin teaming up with Spider-Man. Mentor and friend turned rival – turned ally again. Next, Diddy would join Death Row Records.

There is poetry in this Golden State bomb, intrigue in this twist. But it’s designed to be a heartwarming punctuation of Curry and Paul’s relationship. One that is at least 15 years deep.

There’s something noble about them both doing this, Paul for humiliating themselves and Curry for respecting an OG. Warriors fans won’t like him, having spent the better part of a decade rooting against Paul on behalf of Curry. But Curry doesn’t seem to care.

Don’t get me wrong, this move doesn’t happen without Curry’s blessing and Paul’s acquiescence. Both are big enough stars to have killed this movement if they wanted to. But team sources say Curry and Paul are excited about their union, and it’s definitely because they had a meeting of minds. Undoubtedly, their rivalry has died down over the years as the two dribble into their 40s. But mutual respect and appreciation for brotherhood doesn’t always mean teaming up.

But history will show that Curry is the ultimate magnet, a gravitational force that defies conventional wisdom and unwritten rules. Paul’s move to the Warriors is further proof that Curry’s way of doing things tends to win. There’s no greater sign of respect than a maniacal competitor like Paul choosing to go shotgun with a rival he couldn’t conquer.

And there’s no clearer message from the Warriors that they’re all in Curry’s window. Nothing signals this like trading for a player 14 years older than his predecessor.

The Warriors wanted to gain more experience, to counter the youth that anchored their locker room last year. They also see this move as an upgrade for a secondary ball handler and playmaker. Paul is an accomplished point guard who can lead the team, especially when Curry is seated. He is the answer to the Warriors’ turnover problems and their 3-point addiction. Paul can get his place in the midrange and punish lags.

Poole, at his best, was the perfect replacement for Curry, especially when Curry is running out of time. The Warriors now risk him becoming everything they wanted for another team. They might look back and wish they had a better return on their investment in the guard they cast. But the Warriors capitalized on Poole’s explosiveness and availability for Paul’s experience and leadership. They’ve cashed in on a potential future star for a former juggernaut, and in doing so they’re confident they’ve grown stronger. They also cut nearly $100 million in future pay, paving the way to avoid the more punitive damages of the new collective bargaining agreement. They addressed the chemistry problem in the locker room, created by Draymond Green’s punch last October, and the volatile nature of Poole’s role – the talent of a starter with a spare cap on minutes.

The Warriors have added a renowned leader, one with a cantankerous reputation for sure but commanding respect. And his decision to join the Warriors makes it clear his only goal is to win. The mindset Curry needed to instill in his team with a speech before Game 7 against Sacramento.

But the significance of this move isn’t just that the Warriors have gotten older and more experienced. They traded Curry’s heir apparent for Curry’s former inspiration. Paul undoubtedly helped push Curry, sometimes quite literally, into his current stratosphere. Paul was the bar Curry had to cross.

Curry had just finished his freshman year as a college starter at Charlotte Christian when 80 miles away — in the era of high school YouTube mixtapes, remember — Paul was named to the McDonald’s All-American and Parade teams. 2003 All-American. He was the pride of Winston-Salem and the face of North Carolina high school basketball. Curry watched with ACC dreams in 2004 when freshman Paul dominated his first two NCAA Tournament games, including this line against Manhattan: 29 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 1 turnover.

Paul was playing for his state. The same happened in 2005 when he was selected No. 4 in the NBA draft by the New Orleans Hornets, becoming North Carolina’s highest-drafted player since Jerry Stackhouse became No. 3 in 1995.


The Chris Paul trade is the gonzo move for a Mike Dunleavy Jr title.

In 2009, Curry and his family spent time with Paul’s family, giving the pending NBA rookie some insight and a good time. If you know anything about Curry, you know those moments mean a lot.

In 2011, Curry was nearly traded for Paul.

Things changed in 2014 when the two met in the playoffs. Paul was no longer a mentor to Curry, but an obstacle. When the Clippers survived that streak in Game 7, that was the last time Paul got the better of Curry. For many, it was obvious that Curry was coming.

A crossing symbolized the changing of the guard.

A championship confirmed it.

A 2019 series in Houston ended all talk.

The 2023 playoffs were the best chance for a rebuttal from Paul. Winning a title with Phoenix wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but it would have been something. But the greater concern over Paul also ended his chances.

Injuries are number 1 with Paul. A hamstring knocked him out of the 2018 playoffs for Houston. A groin knocked him out of the 2023 playoffs for Phoenix. But one of the benefits of playing with and behind Curry is that Paul won’t play as many minutes. He has averaged 35.7 minutes in his seven playoff games this year. But prior to this year’s injury, he had played 30 consecutive playoff games in three playoff series.

In the first-round series against the Clippers, Paul played 39, 38, 41, 38 and 38 minutes. He was injured in Game 2 of the following series. Steve Kerr’s caution and Rick Celebrini’s magic are meant to save Paul, giving him a better chance of surviving a post-season gauntlet. Curry is insurance to be able to reduce his workload and not lose ground.

So, Paul jumped across the escalator. Maybe it’s a sign that the whole rivalry isn’t what it used to be, or maybe it never was what it seemed. That in the end, all of these players grow older and wiser and remember that they are all part of a brotherhood. That the feuds that fuel the internet aren’t as intense for the main characters as audiences believe.

What it proves is that life is a circle. That the bond forged in North Carolina can survive time, competition and even misunderstandings. That eventually most former superstars will have to find a safe place to land for their final years. Gaming legends deserve it.

Or we are indeed in an alternate universe.


Slater: Why the Chris Paul-Jordan Poole trade happened for the Warriors

(Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

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