Chris Paul could be next Mark Messier if he chooses Knicks

Someone is going to be the Knicks’ Mark Messier. It might happen in three years, or five years, or 10 years, or 30. So why not, Chris Paul?

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Someone is going to be the Knicks’ Mark Messier. It might happen in three years, or five years, or 10 years, or 30.

But one day, hopefully in our lifetimes, a veteran star will sign up for the immense task of ending the Knicks’ championship drought, and then actually land in a ticker-tape parade. Chris Paul should give that some serious thought after he’s done trying to win a ring in the desert.

Off his 32-point NBA Finals debut in the Suns’ Game 1 victory over the Bucks, which followed his 41-point masterpiece in the Game 6 victory over the Clippers, Paul had a shot Thursday night in Phoenix to do a lot more than advance the modern athlete’s winning fight against the aging process. He took that shot and helped his team take a 2-0 lead over Milwaukee, leaving Paul halfway home to his first NBA ring.

Paul scored 23 points and dished for eight assists in the 118-108 Game 2 victory, all while being hounded by one of the toughest defenders in the sport, Jrue Holiday. At 36, Paul looks to be very much in his prime. It makes sense, too, since he always has been a quarterback who relies more on intelligence, instinct and vision than on athleticism. Like Tom Brady, Paul might go on forever, a possibility that makes him a fascinating free agent-to-be. Perhaps a fascinating Knick-to-be, too.

Up front, understand that Paul has a really good thing going with the Suns. He has a great young backcourt partner, Devin Booker, a great young big man, Deandre Ayton, and a great young coach, Monty Williams. Paul can opt out of next year’s $44.2 million wage, and do a multi-year deal with the Suns that guarantees him plenty more money than that. He could potentially defend a title next year in Phoenix. Oh, and the golf’s pretty damn good, too.

Chris Paul and Mark Messier
Getty Images (2)

But if Paul does check off that box and win his title this year, he could be on the hunt for the last significant challenge of his Hall-of-Fame career. As he approached his mid-30s, LeBron James decided to go big with the Lakers. Maybe now Paul will decide to go big with the Knicks.

Paul’s former agent, Leon Rose, runs the Knicks’ operation.

“I was excited,” Paul said when he heard the news that James Dolan had hired Rose as team president in March 2020. “Le has been with me for a long time, through a lot of different things. And I couldn’t be happier for him and his family.”

According to former Nets executive and current ESPN salary-cap expert Bobby Marks, the Knicks’ extensive cap space would allow them to offer Paul a starting salary of $43 million (105 percent of his current wage) and a three-year deal for roughly $135 million. Phoenix is the only team allowed to offer Paul a fourth year under cap rules, but then again, Suns owner Robert Sarver is not exactly known as an extravagant spender.

“The Knicks would be the only team I’d see Paul taking a call from,” Marks said, “because of his relationship with Leon and the state of the team right now. It’s the only team I could see him visiting if he explores his options outside of Phoenix.”

The Knicks should swing for those fences, assuming Damian Lillard is out of reach. New York is a city of 8 million point guards, yet its signature basketball team hasn’t suited up a special one since Walt Frazier nearly a half century ago. Chris Paul would carry Tom Thibodeau’s program to the next level, the point at which the Knicks are winning early-round playoff series, moving toward Finals contention and, most importantly, scoring points with major stars around the league on the lookout for new homes. Among the more respected men in sports, Paul’s wisdom and professionalism would expedite the development of the Knicks’ young core and, if nothing else, enhance their asset value in a trade for one of those major stars.

Paul’s presence would give the Knicks so much credibility. So what’s in it for him?

He certainly doesn’t need the big city to upgrade his marketability, as Paul already appears in more national ads than any New York athlete. And the Suns clearly are better positioned to challenge for titles over the next three years.

But the New York opportunity is so unique, and so enticing. Messier had won five Stanley Cups in Edmonton, yet he’s most remembered for how he ended the Rangers’ drought in 1994 with his forever No. 6. The pursuit, Messier told me years ago, “became bigger than hockey and bigger than the Stanley Cup.”

Someone, someday, will experience that lifetime thrill with the Knicks. Chris Paul should give that a lot of thought.

This story originally appeared on: NyPost - Author:Ian O'Connor

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