By Derek Page
Only by means of NBA-intervention, Chris Paul is not a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Instead of joining the Lakers by way of a mammoth three-team deal in December of 2011, the trade was rescinded by the league office and, it seemed at the time at least, that Paul was not destined for a move to LA. But that was not the case as both the Lakers and Paul’s former team, the New Orleans Hornets, continued wheeling and dealing that winter and the effects were felt across the NBA.
Originally a part of the deal to acquire Paul, disgruntled Lakers’ forward Lamar Odom was instead shipped to the Dallas Mavericks that December with the Lakers receiving a massive trade exception in return. Fast forward to a year later and LA used that very exception in a sign-and-trade with the Phoenix Suns to acquire two-time NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Steve Nash.
The Lakers weren’t finished after Nash and went ahead and added the best center in the NBA in Dwight Howard to create a super team, on paper at least, heading into next season that looks primed for a title run.
For Paul, the all-star point guard was shipped to that other team in Los Angeles – the LA Clippers – to team with an exciting young all-star in Blake Griffin. Featuring Griffin as the budding superstar, DeAndre Jordan patrolling the paint and a solid veteran cast Paul led the Clippers from the depths of previous seasons to a postseason berth in 2012.
Even though the Clippers were knocked out in four straight games by the San Antonio Spurs in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs, Paul running the show provides hope for a beleaguered Clippers’ fan base.
While not as high-profile as the Lakers, the Clippers also made their fair share of quality additions this summer. The Clippers added a proven scorer in Jamal Crawford along with veteran Grant Hill and, ironically, a huge risk/reward signing in former Lakers’ sixth man Odom.
The re-signing of veteran guard Chauncey Billups should also not go overlooked. The steadying influence, clutch shooting savvy, and floor leadership of the former NBA Finals MVP was pivotal before he went down to a season-ending injury this past February.
Both LA teams look to possess stout squads heading into next season but Paul says he’s not nervous about the star-laden team that also resides at Staples Center, and isn’t ready to crown the Lakers champs.
“No,” Paul said on The Dan Patrick Show, “why should I be [nervous]? At the end of the day you have to play the games. When we got to the Olympics, if you looked at our roster, you could’ve just given us the medal but you have to play the games and that’s what makes it so exciting.”
Fresh off of a gold medal winning performance with the United States Men’s Basketball team just a few weeks ago in London, Paul sees his time with Team USA as the best experience of his career. Considering that he also celebrated the birth of his second child recently, it’s been a whirlwind but rewarding last few weeks overall for Paul.
“It’s definitely been a whirlwind and it’s definitely been a blessing,” Paul said. “When you’re over in London, you almost forget that everyone here at home is watching because we’re all in a hotel and we’re all together all day every day. When you get here and you realize how many people actually watch the games and everywhere you go everyone says congratulations, it’s pretty special but you almost forget that just a few days ago you were over in London competing in the Olympics.”
Still in search of his first NBA Championship, Paul isn’t ready to evaluate winning gold against possibly winning an NBA Title in the future.
“I tell people all the time, I don’t have an NBA Championship to compare it to but there is nothing greater for me right now than having this gold medal because this is the biggest and best team you will ever play on,” Paul said. “When you’re at the Olympics, any time you see someone walking by with a USA t-shirt or anything on, you just give them five or you just feel like you’re on the biggest team that you’ve ever been on in your life and there is no greater feeling than knowing how many people you represent.
“If I win an NBA Championship, everyone in Los Angeles is going to be happy but New York, Chicago, everybody is going to be mad. You win a gold medal and everybody is on the same team.”
True, a lot of people in LA would be happy with a Clippers championship but certainly not everybody. The team to beat and the team of Los Angeles is still the Lakers but it would be difficult to convince Paul of that idea.
“I’m a little biased,” Paul said when asked if the Clippers were the best team in LA. “It’s going to be exciting, I can tell you that much.”
Sharing Staples with one of the greatest players of all time in Kobe Bryant is a tough task, even for one of the best players in the league in Paul. That being said, there’s no shortage of confidence in Paul’s assessment of if he’s the best player in the NBA right now.
“I’m a little biased on that one too,” Paul said. “I would like to think [so].”
Even with the preseason champion Lakers residing in their home city, Paul and the Clippers have plenty of firepower in their arsenal as well heading into next year. If Griffin can gain some seasoning and Paul can remain healthy in the 2013 postseason after struggling with nagging injuries this past year, the Clippers are going to be a difficult out come playoff time.
Not being a preseason favorite and seeing the massive hype machine and media hotbed that will be the Lakers this year will be a solid learning experience for many Clippers players. That sting of being an underdog in your own city all season long will likely add some extra fuel to this budding and evolving LA rivalry.
http://www.hoopsworld.com/chris-paul-do ... ar-lakers/