Happy New Year everyone! There’s no better way to get back into the swing of things than with a brand-new SLAM. This month we’re coming with some “Point-Guard Madness,” a topic I discuss at length in my Editor’s Letter. To drive this topic home we have two covers this month: an “A-B split” of Chris Paul and Rajon Rondo. “A-B” means every newsstand should have both issues, which means the true SLAM diehards can cop both issues. And, as always, both will soon be available in the SLAM section of simbackissues.com.

Besides CP and Rajon, we’ve got great features on Monta Ellis, Manu Ginobili, Blake Griffin, Calvin Murphy and so much more good stuff. But you guys know our biggest thing is always our covers. For more on Rajon Rondo, click over to Khalid Salaam’s blog right here. For more on Vince’s experience writing about CP3—and the serious assistance he got from our friends at Jordan Brand—just scroll down…—Ed.

by Vincent Thomas@vincecathomas

For the past three or four seasons, the point guard debate has become—similar to the early 2000s power forward debate—the “Who’s the best?” position argument of this era. Six or seven years ago you could have made a legitimate “best PF” argument for Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan or Chris Webber. Each dude could realistically stake claim, holding their own individual cache. And then there were dudes like Dirk Nowitzki, Jermaine O’Neal, Rasheed Wallace and Elton Brand that did their own thing. The power forward stable was butts-to-nuts (pause) full of capable stars.

That’s how it is with point guards, now. There’s like seven to 10 (depending on your criteria and opinion) super-dope point guards in the L. Last month I traveled to New Orleans to talk to Chris Paul, whom I think is STILL (for you folks with amnesia) the best of that bunch.

It was an eventful trip. I had a lot of free time to bask in Nola’s one-of-a-kind charm—the architecture, the running brass band soundtrack, the food (muffalettas, po-boys, beignets, Hubig’s pies, etc), the aimless St. Charles street car rides. I even walked through a “Treme” taping one night on Frenchmen.

cp34In addition to kicking it with CP for the SLAM cover piece, I was there for a three-day Jordan Brand event launching the CP3.IVs, Chris’s new kicks. About two dozen other media members were there, mostly lifestyle writers and cats that run sneakerhead sites/blogs. Jordan Brand treated everyone well. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a massive shout to Jordan Brand pr maestro Lacy, who held all us media down those three days and was my point of contact for the CP feature.) There were dinners and group Q&As with CP. They even set up a “Skills Challenge” event on the New Orleans Arena court, exactly like what you see All-Star Weekend. I chilled, electing to observe. The other dudes gamely went at it in the new CP3 kicks. For you athletes and sneakerheads, the kicks look dope and, based on talks with CP and the shoe’s lead designer Jason, they were designed with an incredible amount of thought and ingenuity.

As for the mag story, prior to a Hornets practice, I got a chance to spend about 30 minutes alone with CP. We talked about a lot, some of which you can read in the mag piece. But, of course, based on limited talk-time and print space and the quick-turnaround deadline, I wasn’t able to either discuss as much as I’d have ideally liked or get everything we did discuss in the article. Of everything left on the cutting room floor, I’d say the most interesting was our conversation about the competition at his position.

Chris Paul

From, say 2007-2009, the point guard debate had really become a two-man discussion. CP or Deron Williams. With CP almost winning the 2008 MVP, putting up historic numbers and carrying the Hornets franchise, there seemed to be a pretty distinct consensus that CP couldn’t be eff’d with. In the time since, CP has suffered injuries and Deron has kept doing his thing; but, more importantly, some other youngsters have entered the fray.

CP remembered one road trip earlier in his career when he faced Baron Davis, Steve Nash and Tony Parker back-to-back-to back. Those dudes are still going strong. Now, says CP, he still has to face those older guys and then go grapple with Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo, Brandon Jennings…it just don’t stop. Or, as he likes to say, in his North Cacky drawl, “It’s crazy, man.”

He feels confident, though, about his place among that crop, but takes the high road. He told me he doesn’t talk junk, that “the only time you’ll see me get into any trash-talking is if another guy comes at me first.”

So, I’ll say it for him. He’s still the cat. His points are down because he shoots less. But he’s also more accurate. Assists are slightly down, but so are his minutes. Watch Hornets games. He’s the same dude.

The Friday night I was in Nola, the Hornets beat the Jazz. Neither point guard beasted on the other. Meanwhile, Rondo, our other cover guy, was about to begin a string of injury-related D

NPs, packing it in as the league’s assist leader. This debate will rage for years. We know that for sure.

Chris Paul