VP confident on Chris Paul's return

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- When Chris Paul left the Los Angeles Clippers' training facility on Saturday, he was uncertain about his future with the team. On Monday, Clippers vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks said he was "very confident" the All-Star point guard would eventually re-sign with the team.

Sacks met with Paul on Saturday during the team's exit interview and believes that he will be back, but was cautious about getting into details with Paul becoming an unrestricted free agent and not being able to sign an extension until July 1.

"A lot of that information we'll keep private, because that's an internal thing, but I feel very confident," Sacks said. "I think he's an integral part of this. We feel like we had a great partnership for the last couple of years and we want to continue it obviously. These are decisions that have to be made and some of them will be taken care of at the appropriate time. We can't talk to him until July 1, so we'll go ahead and do that. We'll move forward when it's appropriate."

Paul is eligible to sign a five-year, $108 million extension after July 1. He turned down a three-year, $60 million extension last summer. But that's mostly because the Clippers could only offer him a three-year extension at that point, under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement.

"The No. 1 priority for us right now has to be re-signing our star player, Chris Paul," Sacks said. "That's our goal, that's what we want to do. We want to put ourselves in a position to do that. We feel this organization is in a position to move forward with that goal in mind. It's always difficult, it's never easy, but we feel confident we can be successful."

The Clippers will have to make another big decision before they are eligible to re-sign Paul as Vinny Del Negro's contract expires after June 1. The Clippers coach met with the media on Monday and understands that his future may be tied to the wishes of Paul and Blake Griffin, who signed a five-year, $95 million extension last year.

"I think all that plays a part," Del Negro said. "I enjoy working with them. They're great guys and they're incredibly talented. They're the nucleus of the team obviously that you want to keep intact and move forward with. I've enjoyed working with them and have seen their development."

Sacks said he would indeed meet with Paul, Griffin and others before deciding on who will be the team's next head coach.

"We want to have feedback from our players to hear what they have to say," Sacks said. "Whatever we do, we do as an organization. Of course you're going to listen to your star players. You're going to listen to all your employees when you're making these decisions but I don't think that's unusual."

After losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Memphis Grizzlies last week, Sacks understood how important this offseason would be to the future of the franchise with the team's franchise player and head coach becoming free agents.

"It's huge," Sacks said. "Every offseason is huge. Last offseason was huge. Vinny and I worked really closely to put this team together and get what we thought were the right pieces for our team to compete and be as good as we possibly could be as an organization. We came up short and that's a disappointment. But we have to look at a lot of the positives. I thought he and the staff did a really good job during the season. We need to move forward looking for ways of improving ourselves to go further and achieve our goals."

Paul was noncommittal about returning to the Clippers when he met with the media on Saturday but had previously stated that he loved living in Los Angeles and changing the culture of the long-suffering Clippers franchise.

"I'm going to take my time," Paul said. "I haven't even thought about it. I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to do the rest of the day. I might go home and swim with my son or something. This is nuts. I don't know what to do. I purposely didn't put anything on my calendar because we're supposed to still be playing."

Sacks was hesitant to speak for Paul on Monday but was hopeful that there would be another news conference in July announcing Paul's long-term commitment to the Clippers.

"I think he enjoys living here and being in L.A.," Sacks said. "Obviously we enjoy having him here and having him a part of this team, so that's the most important thing, just moving forward with that."