Chris Paul’s will and determination to play through the pain of a bruised right shoulder on Sunday was drifted earlier in the day when the Phoenix Suns All-Star sat down to watch a four-minute video of Kobe Bryant about how the body can betray you.
As he received treatment in the Suns’ locker room in Game 1 of their playoff series for what the team called a bruise after his right arm hit LeBron James and his head hit his teammate’s torso Cameron Johnson, Paul said he was thinking about that clip of Bryant.
Paul suffered the injury with 9:24 left to play in the second quarter after James jumped over the Suns’ guard for a throw-in attempt, Paul losing his balance after hitting the ball. He lay there for quite a while writhing in pain after his head hit the short Talking Stick Resort Arena as players from both teams gathered around him. When he finally stood up with a towel over his head, James hugged and kissed Paul on the head before going to the locker room.
Then, at 5:32 am from the end of the second quarter, Paul returned to the game to a rousing ovation.
After inspiring his teammates by returning to play, finishing with seven points, eight assists and four rebounds in 36:10 in Phoenix’s 99-90 win over the Lakers, Paul spoke about the video his coach sent him on Bryant’s willingness to play through injuries.
“I listened to it before the game and heard Kob talk about the work ethic you put on and stuff like that,” Paul said during his media session on Zoom. “And in the thing Kobe says like, ‘Injuries, sometimes you just can’t control them.’ So, that was all that came to my mind after the room where I was punched. Once I got to the back they checked me out and knew if there was a way to play I was going to do it.
When asked if he would be able to play in Game 2 on Tuesday night, Paul replied: “Absolutely”. But when Paul described how he felt, it didn’t sound right.
“I was going up and I just remember feeling… I was hearing like crack or something,” Paul said.
He was instrumental in helping the Suns reach the league’s second-best record at 51-21. It will be necessary if the Suns are to succeed in the playoffs.
Although he seemed hesitant and sore for the rest of the first game, Paul still made an impact.
The Lakers had reduced a 16-point deficit to nine by the start of the fourth quarter, but Paul stopped and sank a 15-foot jumper for an 11-point lead that was never threatened again.
“Anytime a guy physically puts him on the line like that after taking that kind of a blow, going through the back and then coming out playing, it gives you juice,” Suns coach Monty said. Williams, during his videoconference. “And then you think of every experience Chris has had, how many games he’s played, how much he’s accomplished – no one would have faulted him for not coming back.
“But when he came back we could see the emotion on his face and I thought that drove our guys. I am moved to watch him fight tonight. I love Chris. He and I have been friends for a long time, so I had to think about his well-being, but also trust him that he was okay. But it not only gave our team some juice, but it gave our fans a jump to see him come back and play in the game.
Paul will do whatever he can to prepare his body for the second game.
He could watch more Kobe Bryant videos.
“I’m fine. I’m fine, ”says Paul. “I kept thinking to myself, ‘Get through the game’. I have a great team around me, people who help me work on my body and stuff like that all the time, and the Suns organization. So everything will be fine.