T.J. SIMERS

No need for papal conclave: Paul and Howard will be staying in L.A.

Paul can get everything he wants from the Clippers, and the same goes for Howard and the Lakers.

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Dwight Howard and Chris Paul have big decisions to make about where they might play next year, maybe changing their lives forever.

I know what that's like.

I was in the seminary, and had I not made out with Sandy in front of the Our Lady of Fatima statue at Notre Dame, liked it so much and gone on later to pursue Ginny so vigorously to become my wife, I might soon be pope.

Had I stayed in the seminary, I probably wouldn't have had two daughters and three granddaughters. And a Grocery Store Bagger for a son-in-law, which goes to show you how blessed I am.

Had I become pope, I can guarantee you I would have allowed women to become priests.

As you can see, I think about being pope a lot.

Some people might consider the gospel according to Page 2 irreverent, but when you've come as close as I have to becoming the pope, how can anyone say such a thing?

I struggle with the idea of wearing red shoes as the pope does, but instead of begging for an audience with someone like Phil Jackson, it would have been nice to have him kiss my ring.

I probably wouldn't be writing for Page 2, which means many of you sinners wouldn't be so worried now about eternal hellfire for posting nasty messages below each column.

Had I become pope, anything that I would have written would have become an encyclical. And had you wanted to send along an encyclical message, you would probably have begun by writing, "Your Holiness."

Yes, my child, things could have been so different had I represented Los Angeles instead of Cardinal Mahony and I was the one asking questions and holding folks accountable.

I know this, Jim Mora wishes I were cardinal on my way to popedom.

So does my wife at times.

But somewhat surprisingly, things didn't always go well in the seminary. If you saw "Dead Poets Society," you got the seminary experience; our place was open like 100 years on the Notre Dame campus before we came along.

As a class of the '60s, we were not considered traditional enough. (It's a good thing I got that out of my system before writing for Page 2.) The clergy running the place thought they'd be better off without us and shut the seminary down. The dance arranged between seminarians and prospective nuns might have been the tipping point.

So I became a sportswriter, in my own way still listening to confessions and sermonizing — which brings me to Howard and Paul.

I have spent a lot of time with both.

There's no need to convert Paul, who is already a gung-ho Clipper to stay. And I don't believe Howard is a lost soul.

There is nothing another team can offer Paul the Clippers can't match or exceed, including money and his coach of choice.

As for Howard and all that's going to be written over the next few months about his future, hogwash.

Some contend he's already gone, wishful thinking on the part of those who so easily dismissed him as an effective performer early on.

The worst thing that can happen to a critic is being wrong, and everyone knowing it.

The Lakers are coming on because Howard is too.

Howard will make more money staying and he has talked about using the L.A. stage to become more than just a basketball player. Nowhere else can that combo be offered.

He's 27, the best center in a game played by tall people, and I believe the day will come when Lakers fans just love him.

Keep in mind that had I become pope, I would now be considered infallible.

A BIG thanks to those who have reached out to help 9-year-old Jeffrey Hughes Jr. in his tussle with cancer.

Jeffrey underwent stem-cell rescue Monday to help his 60-pound battered body recover from efforts to kill off cancer.

At the same time, the family received a needed financial boost.

"Overwhelming," said Jeffrey's dad.

More than $14,000 has been added to gofundme.com/1susko fund to help the family.

One woman donated in the name of her deployed Navy SEAL son, while Kaci Lewin added a note with her family's contribution.

"I am also 9 years old. I hope your cancer stays away."

Another donor, who wants to be unnamed, has offered to cover the $1,000-a-month insurance premium if necessary to maintain Jeffrey's care.

A Lakers fan has offered the Hughes family a break from the hospital and courtside seats for Sunday's game against the Bulls.

Jeffrey will continue to receive monthly chemo treatments for the rest of his life unless a new treatment is developed.

"People have just been wonderful," said Jeffrey's dad. "We feel as if everyone has reached out to just hug us."

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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