Despite being blindsided in a summertime trade to a non-championship contender, veteran Chris Paul is apparently not willing to leave Oklahoma City -- even if it means a better shot at his first NBA title.
The nine-time All-Star point guard, who has never played in an NBA Finals in his previous 14 seasons, told Sports Illustrated that there was "no chance" he would waive his $44.2 million option for the 2021-22 season if that was a final barrier from being dealt to one of the top teams in the league.
"No chance. That's not happening. Nope," Paul, said to SI about the odds of him waiving his sizable option, which combined with his age (he turns 35 in May) would seemingly hinder any future trade to a contending team.
The Thunder acquired Paul and a pair of first-round picks in a surprise trade that sent two-time league MVP Russell Westbrook to the Houston Rockets in July. This deal came despite Paul saying that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey assured him he wouldn't be moved, especially to Oklahoma City.
"After the season I reached out to the [Rockets] and said, 'Hey, if you guys want to go in a different direction, let us know now. That way we can figure something out,' " Paul told SI. "They said we're not trying to go in a different direction. [Morey] asked me if I wanted to go to Oklahoma City. I said no, and he said, 'We won't trade you there, because you chose to come to us from L.A.'
"He doesn't owe me anything, but that's where the whole communication thing was."
Paul is averaging 17.0 points and 6.4 assists per game in 44 games this season with the Thunder, shooting 48.1 percent from the floor -- his highest figure since the 2014-15 season.
Meanwhile, despite media speculation that Paul may not be a fit for a rebuilding Thunder squad at this point in his career, Paul has seemingly embraced a leadership role for his younger teammates.
Accordingly, Oklahoma City has been one of the NBA's biggest surprises this season. After a 6-11 start, the Thunder have gone 19-8 since and at 25-19 overall entering Tuesday, they sit in seventh place in the Western Conference -- just one spot behind 26-16 Houston.
A four-time league assists champion and the NBA's active leader in assists (9,463) and steals (2,191), Paul has averaged 18.5 points, 9.5 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 steals in his 15 seasons.
--Field Level Media