Paul has more on his mind than winning gold medal with Team USA
LONDON -- This is turning into an interesting month for Chris Paul as the quarterfinal round of the Olympic basketball tournament approaches Wednesday. On one side of the Atlantic he is trying to win a second gold medal. On the other side of the ocean he is imploring his wife, Jada, to resist giving birth until he can return home. She is pregnant with their second child and the baby girl is due Aug. 16.
"She's starting to have more and more contractions, but I told her she'd better hold on,'' Paul said Tuesday morning before the U.S. practiced for its quarterfinal against Australia. "I told her she's not going into labor while I'm gone -- I would be so upset.''
If he were to receive news at the right time that the baby was on the way, Paul would consider flying home to North Carolina for the delivery.
"Man, I'm telling you, if push came to shove and I could do it, I would go and come back,'' Paul said. "A six-hour flight, and I'm going to get back by the game. I love kids to death and there's nothing like having my own, so I wouldn't miss it.''
But he wouldn't return home if it would mean missing a U.S. game.
"I know my wife wouldn't want me to miss the game,'' he said. "Luckily I have one already that I made everything for.''
Chris Jr. is 3 years old, and his father was at the hospital for his birth.
"I call him a gold-medal baby. My son was born after '08,'' he said of the last Olympics, in Beijing. "That's when she got pregnant, after the gold-medal game. [Coach Mike Krzyzewski's] daughter has a son the same age as my son -- they're two days apart. I saw her the other day and she said they call her son 'gold-medal baby,' so it's funny.''
By day he's on the phone, coaching his wife, and by night the games have been escalating in intensity. The U.S. (5-0) ended group play Monday with a raucous 126-97 win over Argentina (3-2) during which point guard Facundo Campazzo punched Carmelo Anthony in the groin as he was extended in midair to make a three-pointer in transition. A standoff ensued between the two teams in front of the U.S. bench, and afterward Campazzo claimed that he himself had been punched in the groin earlier in the game by Paul.
"No, I didn't, no question,'' Paul said, denying that accusation.
He said Campazzo had been stirring up the game last month as well when the U.S. beat Argentina in an exhibition at Barcelona.
"He'd be physical, elbowing, all that different-type stuff,'' Paul said. "I got an intentional foul with him. He drove and after the play I reached down and fouled him, and he went spinning and fell down to the ground and they called an intentional foul on me. Go look at it.
"It's a different game over here. It's a lot of contact -- a lot of stuff going during the game, but after the game it's all good.''
Paul will start the quarterfinal Wednesday (5:15 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network) with the key matchup against point guard Patrick Mills, who drove Australia (3-2 and the No. 4 seed in Group B) to an upset win over Russia at the end of preliminaries Monday. The Aussies must generate counterattacks for easy baskets in the absence of center Andrew Bogut, who would have been their best player. While Mills was a late-season backup for the Spurs who contributed rarely in the playoffs, he has played like a star for Australia in the Olympics.
"A lot of these guys are not the same players that they are in the NBA,'' said Paul, who also guarded Mills during the Americans' 116-85 quarterfinal win at the last Olympics. "Just like in '08, Patty Mills gave us fits. It's a lot of shots he'll get a chance to shoot that he wouldn't shoot with the Spurs. It's tough because guys get to really be themselves and show what they can do, and he's a really good player.''
The U.S. players have adapted to the needs of their team as well, though in their case it has meant taking fewer shots. Only leading scorer Kevin Durant (18.6 points per game) and Anthony (17.4) are averaging 10 or more field-goal attempts.
"All of us are at six or seven [shots per game], so it's a reverse role,'' Paul said. "But I definitely love my team.''
His teammates have been urging Paul to shoot more often. No one has spent more time on the court than his 24 minutes per game, yet he is attempting only 5.8 shots for his 7.6 points to go with his team-leading 5.8 assists.
"All the time they're saying [defenders] are going under the screens, they're telling me to shoot it,'' Paul said. "I know I have to do that, but with all this talent, a lot of times as a point guard you get caught trying to find this guy, trying to find that guy.''
When Paul has shot the ball, he has been able to take his time and size up the distance as if playing a game of H-O-R-S-E.
"Every day I shoot before practice, after practice, all day during the season,'' said Paul, who has made 8-of-17 three-pointers at the Olympics. "And that's one thing in our NBA I really don't get a chance to do: I don't get a chance to be a spot-up shooter. So it's fun to come out here and do that.''
And yet he didn't come all this way to put up shots. He is a passer intrigued by the possibilities of sharing with the greatest assortment of scorers he'll ever see.
"It's fun for me to push the ball and drop it to Kevin Durant and see him make a shot,'' he said. "I'm sure those guys love making the shot, and it's fun for me to see them score. I tell them all the time that during the season I have the ball so much, I feel I can get my offense whenever.''
So he likes this change in approach, of sharing the ball without abdicating his responsibilities to the team. The countdown has begun, and every game matters more than the last. Paul was hoping the week ahead would bring three more games, the singing of his country's anthem and then a flight home for the greatest gift of all -- another gold-medal baby.