Chris Paul Expects More From Clippers
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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All-Star point guard Chris Paul is just over eight weeks in to his career as a Los Angeles Clipper. Traded to the franchise prior to the start of the season, it’s safe to say the Clippers’ culture has changed completely since his arrival. Previously just getting to the playoffs would have been a great accomplishment. Now they’re legitimate contenders, sitting in third place in the West overall with a 20-11 record. Yet, Paul is far from satisfied.
“It’s going well,” Paul said to HOOPSWORLD. “We played pretty well. I think we’re 20-11, but we can get a lot better especially defensively. I’m not sure where I thought we would be. I thought we’d have more wins than we do now. That’s just how it goes sometimes. We’re definitely jelling. We have a couple new pieces. We just added Kenyon Martin. Losing Chauncey Billups is huge.”
While mostly positive about his team’s play up to this point, Paul admits that it hasn’t just been smooth sailing. There have been some challenges due to the circumstances of the season, with the lockout, abbreviated training camp and virtually a restless regular season. The loss of Billups tops all of that, though, which is why Paul recruited New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith personally before he ended up singing in the Big Apple.
“It’s really tough, especially with our team,” Paul said. “They threw us together in a week. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us nor do we feel sorry for ourselves. We have to be professional and come together on the fly.
“I definitely wish Smith would have came but at the end of the day I’m happy he’s in New York and doing well. Me and him have a personal relationship, he’s like a brother to me. He’s closer to his mom and dad. I wish him the best.”
One of the reasons why the Clippers were willing to give up so much (Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq-Aminu, Chris Kaman and the Minnesota Timberwolves unprotected first round pick) is because of his leadership qualities. He has a mentality similar to that of Chicago Bulls great Michael Jordan. Losing is unacceptable to him, no matter what it’s at he’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whether it’s recruiting in free agency, putting in extra hours outside of practice or getting serious during a pickup game for fun, Paul will do it to ensure he wins. He played a game of one-on-one with a fan on Friday during the All-Star festivities and while he let the fan have their moment, he eventually kicked it into high gear and won.
“I’ll let you get to nine but at the end of the day I’m going to win,” Paul said. “I can’t. I don’t want you to be able to say you beat me in anything. I’m good at whatever I do. I don’t play Call of Duty but we can play cards, connect four. We can play whatever you wanna play, I’m gonna be good at it. On the Wii bowling I’m good too. I’ve gotten close to 300. Real bowling I’ve gotten a 265. I tell people all the time I play basketball just for fun, bowling is what I do.”
This weekends’ fun didn’t just include interacting with fans for Paul. He also got the chance to fit in some family time despite his busy schedule.
“I took my son to Disney world Thursday,” Paul said. “It was great. When you come to All-Star Weekend it’s not really a break, it’s pretty busy but it was great to take my son and let him be able to do something fun like that. Even though I live in Los Angeles now I haven’t had a chance to go to Disney Land so it was nice to do that.”
During his time in Orlando Paul will get the chance to spend some time with his Olympic teammate and friend Dwight Howard. Howard is going through what Paul avoided by being traded to the Clippers in the preseason. Night in and night out he’s asked about his future and why he’s not willing to sign an extension with the Magic. Paul has advice for Howard, but it’s already being seen through by the All Star center.
“It’s tough,” Paul said. “But at the end of the day you have to do what he’s doing and go out and play. Control what you can control. That’s what I did in my situation. I went to the gym, worked hard and played hard. I know what I can control.”
Howard can’t argue with Paul’s results. He’s in a major media market now and is surrounded by the best supporting cast he’s ever had in the NBA.
“Definitely, I ended up in a great spot,” Paul said. “It worked out great. (New Orleans Hornets general manager) Dell Demps was unbelievable throughout that entire situation. It wasn’t like when I left I hate ya’ll. Me and Dell actually talk since then. I talked to Montey Williams often, Jarret Jack and Trevor Ariza all the time. I watch all their games cause first of all they come on at four or five in Los Angeles.
“It’s nice. It’s really nice (in L.A.). I was skeptical at first because I’m born and raised on the East Coast, never thought I’d be on Pacific Time. The weather is great, the team is amazing and training staff is great. I’m playing with some good players. This guy Blake Griffin isn’t too bad.”
Griffin will be starting alongside Paul in tonight’s game between the Eastern Conference and Western Conference All-Stars. It’s the first time Paul has a teammate starting with him in the game, but it’s unlikely that it’ll be the last time. Paul and Griffin are far from content with the success they’ve had as a duo so far. They want more. Specifically, they want championships. Along their quest to capture one, you can bank on plenty more All-Star appearances together as well.