The following is fan fiction. None of this is true, unless it is accidentally. There’s a fancy way of saying that, but I’ve forgotten it at this time.
The flight from Cleveland to Los Angeles is a long one, but Chris Paul’s anxiousness to get home hadn’t kicked in yet. Paul sat silently, still digesting what took place on the court, still running a highlight reel of sequences through his mind. His mind raced to the end of the third quarter. He immediately felt a twinge of regret. Stupid. Get a shot off.
Paul leans a little further back in his seat with crossed arms, and takes a deep breath.
The regret lingers a bit, but it’s quickly erased by other memories. This is a good night. 15 assists, zero turnovers. A 16-point win on the road. There is very little to dwell on.
But before Paul can allow his mind to wander elsewhere, it snaps at attention. His head and spine involuntarily follow — his back is now straight as a board and in the locked and upright position. The List.
Nonchalantly as possible, Paul quickly scans his surroundings. He senses where everyone is because that’s what he does, but now would not be the right time for his lone turnover of the evening.
Paul looks to his immediate right, where Chauncey Billups and Grant Hill are finishing up a game of chess. Behind him, DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin are hovering over Jamal Crawford like a couple of vultures, waiting for the new father to fall asleep. This is as easy of a shot as they’ll get all year. Up ahead a few rows, Ryan Hollins and Ronny Turiaf are trying on their life vests. There’s nothing really out of the ordinary going on.
Paul leans forward in his seat before hunching over to grab a spiral notebook and a pen out of the bag in front of him. This has become a silent pleasure for him, one he shares with no one else. It’s not that Paul thinks his teammates wouldn’t enjoy this — they would. It’s just that Paul can’t run the risk of this getting out to the media. They’d never let it go. And it’s really more of a private thing, anyway.
Paul flips through the first few pages of the notebook, quickly skipping ahead to find The List.
The List is not long. A few names of players, a few names of teams. Some have already been crossed out, but lightly enough so that Paul can see the remnants of what the letters once spelled. Simply getting things done isn’t the primary objective of most list makers, anyway.
Paul leans closer to read his own handwriting. He actually needs glasses — real prescription glasses — but then how would he earnestly ask a referee if he has Lasik? How could he avoid being called “Cliff” everywhere he went? It wasn’t worth the trouble.
The first name on the list is pretty plain to see. The letters are bigger than most of the others, and they spell out the name of DERON WILLIAMS. The player taken above him in the draft, the player who owns the head-to-head meetings and that big bulky ass frame, the old conference rival now attempting to resurrect a franchise.
Although no one in their right mind still considered them equals, Paul had a fight to finish. It didn’t matter if Deron wasn’t what he once was, this was a war Williams would not be allowed to retreat from. When the Nets came to LA in a few weeks, Paul was going to bury Williams with…
Paul shook himself out of it.
“Stop clicking that damn pen. I’m about to beat Grant and I can’t focus over here.”
Paul put his pen down, waited a few seconds, then picked it back up. He scanned down The List to find CLEVELAND.
This one wouldn’t be as satisfying as some of his others, but he relished the chance to cross any name off The list. The Cavs had embarrassed him at Staples earlier in the year, after all, and the Clippers hadn’t won in Cleveland since 2002. And they were wearing blue? Come on. Hell, Michael Jordan used to bait guys into talking trash just so he could find the motivation to eviscerate them. The Cavs earned their spot just as much as those poor suckers who fell into MJ’s web had.
Damnit. The pen needed to be clicked. I need a new pen, Paul thought to himself. Who the hell writes with clicky pens these days? And some damn glasses. He chuckled and mumbled, I’d write that down, but, ya know…
Paul fake coughed and clicked the pen slowly, peering out of his side view to see if Chauncey noticed. He hadn’t — he was too busy focusing on how to attack with his left side rook. With a firm hand, Paul slowly moved the pen back and forth over the name of CLEVELAND, watching the letters become more and more unintelligible.
Once he was satisfied, Paul moved his eyes down to the very bottom of the list. He knew he should have closed the notebook and kept his mind off it, but he couldn’t help himself.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
It was the only name on the list underlined (twice) and in a different color. Paul had made it impossible to ignore on purpose sometime after the Spurs thwarted his only real chance at a ring with the Hornets back in 2007. Paul looked at his hand. Ringless except for a wedding band. He shifted in his seat in a manner one only does when there is a child in the seat behind you practicing a bicycle kick.
Are we ready for them? Paul instinctively looked at Chauncey for the answers to a question he didn’t voice, but Chauncey was proudly surveying the chessboard while Grant plotted his next move. He looked again behind him at Blake and DeAndre, energetically planning something or another. Paul smiled as he faintly heard Vinny Del Negro threaten to kick someone’s ass at ping pong, saying something or other about his Italian fire…
His eyes stopped on Matt Barnes a few rows up, icing his left hand uncomfortably. He found Caron Butler in the back corner of the plane, chewing his straws and keeping to himself. He caught Bledsoe watching him watch everyone else, and acknowledged him with a little nod.
Were they really good enough to beat the Spurs? Were they that much better than last year’s team? Paul let the doubt swim in for a moment, but quickly pushed it away. This was a good team. A better team. A great team.
Paul looked out of his window. There wasn’t a cloud to be seen. The dark night sky was as clear as he had ever remembered it being. He closed his notebook and put it in his bag, stowing it away for a later date. They weren’t close to arriving yet, but they were well on their way.