Despite averaging 50 wins over the last three seasons and employing one of the best scorers in the league in James Harden, the Rockets—and everyone else—have been unable to overtake the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference.
With that in mind, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who has been quoted saying he’s “basically obsessed” with beating the Warriors, decided to take a gamble on 32-year-old point guard Chris Paul. His thinking being that the former Hornets and Clippers star just might be the missing piece that the team needs to win a championship.
For Morey and the Rockets, the gamble has paid off—big time.
Although he has 12 years in the NBA under his belt and all the wear-and-tear that comes with it, Paul is playing some of the best basketball of his career in Houston. Paul’s play has been fueling some historic offensive production for the Rockets, who have been averaging nearly as many points per game as the Warriors nearly halfway through the 2017-18 season.
How has he done it? With an intense focus on body maintenance, nutrition, and stretching, which has helped ensure that Paul is feeling fresh every time he steps on the court.
“One of the biggest keys has been stretching and foam-rolling,” Paul tells Men’s Fitness. “Every night before bed I’ll do a routine, and you can just feel such a huge difference when you get up. I sound like an old man, but there’s a lot less aches and pains. I’ve had knee surgery, so I just do this all year-round. Since I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that maintaining your body is the most important thing, and stretching out and my nutrition are the biggest parts of that. It makes me feel like I’m much younger when I’m on the court. When you’re young, 21 years old, you can get out of shape and then you just get right back. When you get older, you have to work at it.”
Paul’s play has helped turn the Rockets into a legitimate threat to the Warriors—but he knows it won’t be easy to beat them after the success that Golden State’s had the last few years.
“We just need to keep building and trying to get better,” Paul says. “We need to make sure we peak at the right time this season. We went on a big winning streak, but it was early. We aren't satisfied with where we are. We know we gotta be a lot better, and we can be.”
Here's Paul's newest ad with State Farm—Paul on the "Grand Tour" with teammates James Harden and Trevor Ariza, and Office actor Oscar Nunez—and it's one of the best he's done so far:
— Chris Paul (@CP3) December 24, 2017
Paul spoke with Men’s Fitness about how he stays fresh as he gets older, playing with Harden, what Grant Hill taught him about food, and why he loves doing those hilarious State Farm commercials.
How has your training, workout methods, and preparation changed over the years as you’ve gotten older?
It’s changed a lot, absolutely. Earlier in my career I wasn’t as focused on the foam-rolling and stretching, and now it’s a daily thing. Even on the road, my trainer, who is with our team...we practiced in Houston and then flew to Orlando, and he’ll come to the hotel room and go through the stretching and foam-rolling routine with me no matter what. My wife knows, too, she’ll be in bed and I’ll sit there and stretch and foam-roll before I go to bed. It helps me sleep better, and it has really been integral to playing this long in the league.
What’s your workout routine like during the off-season? What are some ways you like to train away from the court?
It's funny, because I always tell people I work out and train year-round, and that's not just because I'm a professional athlete—I do it for my life, too. I’ve had injuries and surgeries in the past, so I know how it feels when something isn’t firing right on my body. I love being able to do those precise movements, and also hang out and play with my kids, so I work out and train all summer so I feel good year-round. Whether it’s hamstring curls or band work before I play or go out, and I like to ride bikes, too. That really keeps my legs strong.
I’ve done boxing in the past when I couldn’t do any weight-bearing stuff, and swimming has been key when I’ve had to stay off my legs for injuries. At the end of the day, it’s all about keeping a routine. It’s just like those people who wake up and go to Starbucks every day and get coffee. In the same way, for me, I don't feel right unless I get up and go to the gym, work out, and do my shooting routine. I don't feel like myself unless I do what I'm supposed to do each day.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how much diet is a factor. It's become the most important thing.
The NBA season can be a long one. How do you train to build your stamina and endurance to stay healthy through the regular season and playoffs?
It's a lot of maintenance, and a big focus on keeping that in order. I have a cold tub at my house and after practice I get in the cold tub, or sometimes I’ll do contrast where I’ll get in the cold for two or three minutes, then in the hot for one minute, and go back. I'm constantly just doing different things and seeing what works best for my body. Whether it's needling, whether it's massage, or anything else like that. I think I might be the second-oldest darn point guard in the league now, behind Tony Parker, so I'm trying to keep up with him and everyone else.
What’s your diet and nutrition like, and how has that helped you in your NBA career? How about a favorite cheat meal?
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how much diet is a factor. It's become the most important thing. One of the biggest parts of staying healthy and in shape comes down to diet. I didn’t really get as into my diet and nutrition until I came to Los Angeles. I played with Grant Hill, and he used to talk to me about the 70-30 rule, the 80-20 rule of how the big number is the foods you eat and the small number is the training and exercise. Even during the summer, I’ll have a few cheat days because I'm a guy that loves food, but I stay on top of it. I try to eat as healthy as possible during the season, but during the summer is honestly when you have to probably eat better, because you're not usually doing as much cardio by actually playing games. Cheat meal? It’s french fries—that’s my favorite that I just can’t say no to.
What’s it like playing with someone as exciting and skilled as James Harden?
It really has been a lot of fun. To play with someone with the ability that James has, it’s unbelievable because you don't see it too often. Right now he’s injured, so it’s tough to see that, because there’s not too many people you come across in this league that love the game as much as he does. We have such a great camaraderie as a team, and James is the center of that. We all got together for New Year’s, and we really have a great group of guys. It was an adjustment coming from the Clippers, but we have a great team, a great coaching staff, and I feel blessed and excited to have the opportunity here with the Rockets and to play with James.
How has the game changed in your eyes since you first came into the league?
Oh man, it’s changed—and it keeps on changing [laughs]! Once upon a time, you had the big guys that would dunk the ball, and it would go through that. Of course, some teams played a little fast, like you had Phoenix, who was playing like a real up-tempo game back then. We played pretty fast in New Orleans when I was there. The guards were really good when I came into the league, like exceptionally good. It was guys like Baron Davis, Allen Iverson, and Deron Williams, and the guards just kept getting better and better. Now, it's just you know, the league is playing at a faster pace than it's ever been. So, basically everybody plays fast now.
What’s it like working on your always-funny State Farm commercials? What’s been most important to you about that partnership?
Working with State Farm all these years has been an amazing partnership—a lot of fun, a lot of growth, it's crazy. When you're on set, you have a number of people who've been a part of it...and we think about all the different storylines that we've had, whether it be “Chris and Cliff,” or some of the others. It just continues to grow even after being traded to Houston this summer. My favorite thing about the partnership is how much bigger it is than just these commercials. We've had an opportunity to do so many different things in the community, with learning centers and learning labs in the community. It’s great a lot of people see the commercial, but it’s much bigger than that. It’s an opportunity to help kids and bring new things to the community wherever I play. I worked with my son on one of the commercials, and other greats like Kevin Garnett and Reggie Miller, so it's been cool to work with other people throughout the process.
What was the experience like this time working with teammates James Harden and Trevor Ariza? Any funny moments shooting your new commercial?
It was great having the opportunity to do the new stuff with my teammates James [Harden] and Trevor [Ariza], it made the experience even better. We had a lot of funny moments. Probably the funniest moment was when we were in the car singing and Trevor belts out the line of the song. My son, little Chris, yesterday, was on my wife's lap and he was singing it the same way. He was singing, "Tell me why" and getting Trevor perfectly. Those shoots can be long days, but when you’re on set with guys that you're extremely close with that you can laugh with, and have a good time with it, it makes it that much more fun, and it makes it easy.
Here's one more look at the ad: