Celtics

NBA Notebook: Status of Chris Paul looms over Game 7 and Rockets’ future

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Chris Paul battled through a hamstring injury in a memorable Game 7 four years ago to help the Clippers defeat the Spurs (who were the defending champions) in one of the best first-round matchups in league history. In a cruel turn of events, he may not have a chance to take down the current defending champions on Monday night in Houston with an NBA Finals berth on the line against the Warriors.

The All-Star point guard remains “less likely than likely” according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com to play in Game 7, and that fact alone has made the Warriors a heavy road favorite (-5.5) in Game 7, even with Andre Iguodala’s status in question.

It’s hard not to feel for Paul in this spot. He has excised a number of his postseason demons already this year (first trip to Conference Finals), but a trip to the NBA Finals would vanquish them even after years of disappointment in Los Angeles and New Orleans.

At age 33, there is no guarantee that Paul will get another opportunity like this throughout his Hall of Fame career, which has evoked sympathy from his opponents even as they benefit from his absence.

"More than anything, I feel bad for Chris," Steve Kerr said before Game 6. "The guy's a phenomenal player and competitor and pretty much willed his team the last two games. He's just been haunted by these types of injuries in his career, and it's a shame. I hate when anybody gets hurt."

That injury history casts a long shadow over the Rockets offseason as the squad constructed to take down the Warriors has some tough decisions to make if they want to keep the band together beyond this season. The group already has $80 million to just seven players next year and has several key rotation pieces up for new deals, headlined by Paul.