Chris Paul has opted to pass on a third consecutive trip to the Olympic Games as a part of Team USA. The Los Angeles Clippers point guard cited age, physical wear-and-tear, and the desire to spend more time with his family as influential factors in his decision-making process.
Paul announced the decision in an interview with Sports Illustrated‘s Lee Jenkins Tuesday. His initial membership on the team, along with that of Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James, signaled the beginning of the turnaround for Team USA that occurred from 2006 onward. With Paul at the point, both as a starter and bench player, the nation captured back-to-back gold medals in Olympic Games.
The decision to walk away was a difficult one for Paul, as he reflected on the program’s lowest point, a 2006 loss to Greece in the World Championships, and how proud he now feels given the amount of growth and success the squad has had in subsequent years. America won gold medals in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics; Paul served as the team’s starting point guard in 2012, contributing 8.2 points and 5.1 assists per game en route to the podium.
“Coming from where we were,” Paul said, “that was the best feeling.”
But, at this point in his career, Paul has determined that this summer will be best used as a time of rest. He told Jenkins that he can’t remember a summer he wasn’t injured, recovering from injury, or playing for Team USA in some fashion.
Jenkins also points out the fact that Paul has had to step up as a bit of a one-man show for the Clippers this season, as fellow star and teammates Blake Griffin has been absent due to injury for the past three months. Having played in the NBA for 12 seasons now, Paul’s body needs the rest that comes with the summer months.
Taking a step away from the court and looking at Paul’s decision from a family perspective, it seems like a fairly easy one: not playing for Team USA means the Paul family can have more time together. But for Paul and his son, Chris Jr., 7, and daughter, Camryn, 3, the decision is harder than that because the Olympics are not another event that pulls him away, rather the Games are an opportunity for his family to experience the spectacle together first-hand and watch their father represent the country.
“Just a few days ago, Little Chris asked me, ‘Daddy, will you play in the Olympics again?’” Paul said. “Part of me wanted to say yes, because he’s never been part of it. But I told him, ‘I want to spend more time with you.’”
The 30-year old point guard referenced Steph Curry and Kyle Lowry by name in suggesting who would take up his mantle as the team’s show-runner, telling SI of Lowry, who was left off Team USA’s list of 30 finalists, “I love watching him play. You need that grit.” The 2012 team’s point guard rotation included Paul, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams. James Harden also contributed to the role of ball-handler at various points.
The 2016 roster will feature several significant roster changes, with the point guard slot being one of the more significant decisions Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski will have to make. The most recent list of finalists includes Mike Conley, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook as options for America.