Chris Paul opted to decline his $44.2 million player option with the Phoenix Suns for the 2021-22 NBA season, The Athletic and Stadium's Shams Charania reported Sunday.

The Suns were well aware the 36-year-old 11-time All-Star's decision whether or not to enter free agency would set the tone for a pivotal offseason. Opt in, and Paul rejoins their promising young core in a ringing endorsement of their surprising Finals run, likely with a hefty two-year contract extension looming. Opt out, and he puts enormous pressure on Phoenix owner Robert Sarver to meet his demands for running it back.

Paul is limited to a three-year contract window due to the NBA's "Over-38" rule.

The Suns acquired Paul from the Oklahoma City Thunder last offseason for a 2022 first-round draft pick and unwanted contracts. He enjoyed a second straight resurgent season after a downward turn to his career. Paul averaged 16.4 points (on 50/40/93 shooting splits), 8.9 assists against 2.2 turnovers and 4.5 rebounds in 31.4 minutes a game in his first season with Phoenix, capturing Second Team All-NBA honors.

He reunited with Monty Williams, his former coach in New Orleans, and together they proved instrumental in the development of rising Suns stars Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton and Mikal Bridges. The partnership produced the Suns' first playoff appearance since 2010, and Paul's playoff performance keyed victories against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and L.A. Clippers. His 41 points in a close-out Game 6 of the Western Conference finals was the coronation of a legend, bonding Paul's career arc with Phoenix.