Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error In order to execute a trade, Paul had to agree to opt in to the final year of his contract, which will pay him just over $24 million, setting him up to enter free agency next summer. Thanks to the “over-38 rule” within the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which Paul helped negotiate as president of the players’ union, Paul will be eligible to sign a five-year deal worth approximately $205 million with Houston next summer when he is 33.On Tuesday, Paul made his feelings known in a meeting in Los Angeles with Doc Rivers and Lawrence Frank, the Clippers’ executive vice president of basketball operations. At that point, the Clippers faced two grim options: trade Paul for a collection of role players or let him walk for nothing.Last week, reports surfaced that Paul would exercise an opt-out clause in his contract after power forward Blake Griffin did the same. However, the opportunity to pair with James Harden toppled plans to have Paul re-sign and keep the Clippers’ All-Star core intact.Before being traded to the Clippers in 2011, Paul spent six seasons with the New Orleans Hornets. He has career averages of 18.7 points, 9.9 assists and 2.3 steals per game. He has led the league in assists four times (twice as a Clipper) and steals six times (three times as a Clipper).Paul’s arrival gave birth to “Lob City” and infused a dormant Clippers franchise with excitement and hope. With Paul, Griffin and center DeAndre Jordan forming a true “Big Three,” the Clippers enjoyed the greatest period in franchise history. However, they were never able to get beyond the second round of the postseason, falling short in especially painful fashion in 2014, with a second-round loss to Oklahoma City, and in 2015, when the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead to Harden and the Rockets.It’s not quite as dramatic as Kevin Durant jilting Oklahoma City for the Warriors, but Paul is leaving the Clippers to team up with a former foe, Harden, who on Monday became the runner-up for the Most Valuable Player award for the second time in three years.While it’s unclear how exactly those two ball-dominant guards will coexist, The Vertical reported the two “were determined to play together.”It’s a crippling blow to the Clippers, whose championship hopes were largely contingent on the front office’s ability to retain Paul and Griffin. The Clippers finished 51-31 last season and earned home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, only to lose in seven games to the fifth-seeded Utah Jazz after Griffin was injured in Game 3.The Clippers won 50 games in each of the past five seasons, and won 40 in a lockout-shortened 66-game season in 2011-12, Paul’s first with the team.Earlier this offseason the Clippers hired NBA legend Jerry West as a front-office consultant and also announced plans to explore building a new arena in Inglewood. The team also emerged from last week’s NBA draft with two players after owner Steve Ballmer agreed to pay cash for the two second-rounders: Oklahoma State point guard Jawun Evans and South Carolina shooting guard Sindarius Thornwell. The Clippers are just days removed from a thought they could be on the cusp of being one such super team, with reports that they made efforts to acquire Paul George and that they were eyeing LeBron James in the summer of 2018. Now, with Paul out of the picture, the Clippers will turn their attention to re-signing Blake Griffin when teams can begin negotiating with free agents at 9:01 p.m. Friday.If the Clippers are able to re-sign Griffin they would be left with an $8.4 million mid-level exception to use on other players.The 28-year-old Griffin opted out of the final year of his contract last week, and is expected to command interest from teams including the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat. However, the Clippers can pay Griffin $175 million over five years while another team could only offer four years and $130 million.Griffin averaged 22.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 5.2 assists last season, but in the past three years has made just 163 appearances, barely two-thirds of the Clippers’ total games in that span. Consensus around the NBA had been that if the Clippers could only retain one, they would much prefer to hold on to Paul, and let Griffin depart.In a Twitter post Wednesday morning, Paul thanked Clippers fans for supporting both he and his family, and described an “unbelievable amount of emotions.” After six seasons and just as many playoff disappointments, Chris Paul’s time with the Clippers is over.After Paul informed the Clippers he would sign as a free agent with the Houston Rockets, the teams negotiated a trade that sent the perennial All-Star to the Rockets in exchange for seven players and a 2018 first-round draft pick.The Clippers will receive former Lakers reserve Lou Williams, small forward Sam Dekker, big man Montrezl Harrell and point guard Patrick Beverley. They also landed three players with non-guaranteed contracts: Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins and Kyle Wiltjer.Meanwhile, Houston is attempting to field a star-laden squad to contend with the juggernaut Golden State Warriors.