After Chris Paul’s quest for his first championship ring ended Tuesday night when his Suns lost Game 6 of the NBA Finals 105-98 in Milwaukee, the point guard had a chance to say he couldn’t wait to return to Phoenix for another chance at a title.
The 36-year-old didn’t quite say that, but gave a hint he would prefer to stay for a second season after guiding the Suns to unprecedented heights. Paul reportedly is leaning toward opting out of the $44 million final season of his contract to try for a three-year deal. But perhaps this Finals disappointment will change that view.
It’s a big issue for Knicks brass because team president Leon Rose is Paul’s former agent and would make a push to sign him.
“We just lost a few minutes ago, you know what I mean?,’’ Paul said. “Right now we’re going to process this and figure this out. I think everything else will take care of itself.
“I’ll take some time to think about that, but right now you’re just trying to figure out what you could have done more. It’s tough.
“Great group of guys, hell of a season, but this one is going to hurt for a while. We sort of saw what it takes to get there and hopefully we see what it takes to get past that.’’
That sounds as if Paul feels he still has a future in Phoenix.
Paul had a strong Game 6, with 26 points and five assists, shooting 11-for-18 to keep the Suns close. His backcourt partner in crime, Devin Booker, cost the Suns a chance to bring the series back to Phoenix for a Game 7. He seemed to lack confidence all night and had his shot blocked on a few occasions.
Booker finished with just 19 points, shooting 0-for-7 from 3-point range and committing six turnovers.
Booker, who was headed to Tokyo to join the Olympic team a matter of hours after the loss, sounded as if he believes he and Paul will have another shot at the championship next season.
“We supported Chris all the way, he led us this whole entire season and this is our first year together,’’ Booker said. “So just developing a relationship, developing a trust amongst each other throughout the whole season and … for it to fall short like this it’s tough on all of us.’’
The Suns also have to decide on backup point guard Cameron Payne, who played his way into a nice new contract — whether in Phoenix or elsewhere. Payne was big in Game 6 with 10 points in five minutes to lead the Suns’ first-half comeback.
The Knicks could find Payne an attractive cheaper option as a point guard who could split time with Derrick Rose. If Paul opts to stay in Phoenix, it might force the Suns to let Payne go.
Former Knick Bobby Portis was on the podium with chants of “Bob-by” raining down. He became a cult hero a year after he was part of the Knicks’ humdrum season.
During the podium ceremony, Portis said, a year ago he was “Really depressed, really down, not being invited to the bubble with my team. I worked out for months and I found peace in my life. Coming here was the best thing that ever happened to me, man.’’
Portis is expected to opt out of the $4 million final year of his contract.