It had been a couple of weeks since the Houston Rockets lost to
the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, but CP
still wasn’t completely over it.
What I remember most about our trip to the golf course that July
was how disappointed he was that his hamstring gave out on him. He
and James Harden, unfortunately, just weren’t able to finish the
Golden State obviously ended up going on to win the championship
again in 2018, and it bugged him.
Shoot, it bugged me, too. By this point, I’d been rooting for
him for a good 15 years.
“He’s the real deal, I’m telling you!”
Back in 2003, that was Jeff Battle raving to me about this young
kid who they were trying to recruit to Wake Forest.
Coach Battle was the top assistant to the late Skip Prosser, who
was my head coach at Xavier. Shortly after I left Xavier, Coach
Prosser and Coach Battle got hired at Wake Forest.
Like most young players, I leaned on my former coaches for
guidance even after I got to the league. So naturally, we stayed in
touch. I’d attend a game here or there and eventually was told by
Coach Battle to look out for CP — the next great guard. So I
We had one or two brief phone conversations while he was in
college, mostly just me offering words of encouragement, and by the
time he decided to come out, it was pretty obvious that he was
destined for greatness at the NBA level.
So yeah, full disclosure: CP is like a little brother to me.
We’ve got history. I’ve been keeping tabs on him since he was in
undergrad, and he was a major reason why I decided to sign with New
Orleans once I left Boston after the 2007-08 season. At that time,
New Orleans was coming off of a 56-win season and a Game 7 loss to
San Antonio in the second round of the playoffs.
What made it even better was that David West was running with
him. We had a nice little connection, the three of us. West went to
Xavier as well, and I hosted him when he came on his recruiting
visit. If I stayed for my senior year, we would’ve been teammates.
I obviously left for the NBA Draft, but the opportunity to team up
with both of them in New Orleans was too good to pass up.
I spent two seasons down there in New Orleans with CP, and am
cool with him to this day. And I know when I decide to come out and
let it be known that he’s my MVP for the 2020-21 NBA season, the
natural thing to say is that I’m biased.
And maybe I am. But that doesn’t mean that I’m not right.
At the end of the day, I define value by a player’s impact on
winning, and while a bunch of players can claim to impact their
team in that way, this season, I don’t really think that there’s
anyone who can make a better argument for that than CP. For as long
as he’s been in the league, one of the common themes with him has
been his teams overachieving. Now in his 16th year, that still
When you talk about making your teammates better and maximizing
the talent around you, there’s nobody — perhaps with the exception
of LeBron James — who has done that better and more consistently
than CP. And what he has done for the Phoenix Suns this season is
truly remarkable. After adding him, they went from not being in the
playoffs to having a shot at the top seed in the Western
I don’t know what could possibly be more valuable than that.
Some might say that Phoenix did their thing in the bubble last
year and that they would have been better this season whether they
added CP or not, but when you look at his track record of success
over his career and even consider where he took the Thunder last
year… it becomes pretty obvious that his contributions not only
elevate younger players, they elevate entire franchises. Entire
So yes, I would give a lot of credit to Devin Booker for pushing
the Suns toward the top of the Western Conference this year, just
like I would give Shai Gilgeous-Alexander a lot of credit for what
the Thunder were able to accomplish last season. But CP was the
common factor. That’s no coincidence.
The Suns have come so far, so quickly, and that’s why he’s my
pick, and I mean that with all due respect to Nikola Jokic.
The Joker has put together a season for the record books, and
the fact that he’s held the Denver Nuggets up since Jamal Murray
went down is special. But Jokic has a lot of other talented players
on his team, including Michael Porter Jr. and Aaron Gordon. He’s
their leader for sure, but Denver is coming off of a run to the
Western Conference Finals and has quite a bit of experience under
their belt. Does that diminish the impact of what he’s done for his
team on an individual level? Definitely not. But I think CP
deserves a little more credit for leading a young team that’s never
been there before.
From a numbers standpoint, the Joker obviously has CP beat, and
if someone decides that Jokic is their MVP, that’s respectable; I
can’t really argue with it. What that would tell me, though, is
that the voter probably values individual numbers more than they
value an individual’s impact on winning and elevating a franchise,
and in my book, the impact should weigh more. Balancing numbers
with impact is tough, though, because there’s no way to truly
measure impact… except for wins. In that respect, it’s easier to
fall back on numbers because they’re easy to interpret. But that’s
okay, some things just gotta be done the hard way, I guess.
CP’s value isn’t something that can be fully quantified, and
that’s something I’m sure that players like Book, Shai, D-West,
Blake Griffin and Tyson Chandler would all agree on.
Count me among them.
At the end of the day, the MVP debate is fun and there’s a
reason why we find ourselves having this discussion pretty much
every year. Different people have different
criteria. How do we define “value” or “valuable” from a
basketball standpoint? It’s a question we’ve been trying to answer
for a really, really long time.
Me personally? I can’t really quantify it. But I know it when I
see it, and when I see a team go from the lottery to flirting with
homecourt advantage throughout, it’s difficult for me to not
consider that player for MVP.
When CP and his brother left me at the course back in 2018, I
had no idea that Chris would still be leading a team toward the top
of the West three years later.
Honestly, the only thing that’s been more surprising is been the
lack of respect and attention he’s been getting for it.