by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
He was mean.
That’s what they say about Chris Paul as a kid. His family members recount a funny story about a young Chris and his older brother CJ. One day when CJ was a 3-year-old, he stood at the top of the stairs when Chris, a 1-year-old at the time, rolled up on him and pushed him down the steps. They laugh about it now and clearly Chris didn’t know what he was doing, but his personality was on display. We have seen this attitude on the court at times—CP3 is as competitive as they come in the Association, a certified cleaner on the court.
Late last season, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich praised this side of CP3 to the L.A. Times. “He is a mean, nasty man,” Popovich said, affectionately. “I don’t know if there is anybody more competitive in the League than that little dude. He’s one of those guys that they must have stole his toys and everything when he was a kid. He’s getting back in that world, because he’s mad at everybody once he steps on the court.”
Off the court, Paul is considered to be one of the nicest guys in the game, a loving husband and father that global brands can confidently align with for the best of both worlds. He is now the NBA Players Association President, a post he does not take lightly.
“It’s going to take all of us players to get the union where we like it at and I’m going to call on these two guys (Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan) and a lot of other guys,” Paul explained during media day. “We just want to continue to try to grow the game and make it even bigger than it is right now.”
This is your canvas Doc Rivers. The man who shaped the Boston Celtics into the nastiest beast in the East has a new muse. Under his care, Kevin Garnett didn’t smile for five years, spitting insults throughout games while legally bitch slapping anyone he could. His precocious young PG Rajon Rondo opted against speaking for 28 months, real talk, unleashing terror throughout the L. And Paul Pierce’s step back hit deadlier levels under this us-against-the-world regime.
So, what’s Doc going to do for CP3? He’s getting 18 points, 10 dimes, 4 rebounds and 2 steals per, the best PG in the game. If he gets Paul to buy into the same mentality he instilled in Boston, this Clipper team could be scary. There has already been heavy talk of defense and the death of Lob City. Nice additions have been made to the roster. Veterans Darren Collison, JJ Redick, Jared Dudley and Antawn Jamison are nice pieces to go with an amazing core of Paul, Griffin, Jordan and Jamal Crawford.
Paul has everything in place. He has his coach, a quality squad and a max extension. Following games, one of the first people into the locker room when it opens to the media is his son, “Lil Chris,” decked out in retro Js and followed closely by his boys, Matt Barnes’ twins. The Clippers have a family atmosphere, one that didn’t exist before Paul joined the squad—that’s all him.
It’s his franchise and now it’s time to deliver. CP3 is entering his ninth year in the League and having never advanced further than the second round of the Playoffs, the expectations will be heavier than they ever have been. Last year’s first-round loss to the Memphis Grizzles was a bitter end to a record-breaking season for Paul and the Clippers. He can’t do that again.
Throughout his career, Paul has received a great deal of individual acclaim but he has realized that he will not be satisfied without a Championship. “With professional athletes, you always want people to motivate you and push you,” Paul says. “The first meeting I had with Doc, he pretty much told me I wasn’t anything. He told me I hadn’t done anything in this League and he was right.”
Attempting to replicate the past, Doc appears to be building a Big Three: West Coast Edition. On most occasions last season, the Clippers made Paul and Griffin available to the media in a dual post-game presser. This year, Doc might be pushing for a triad on the regular. CP3, Griffin and Jordan recently appeared on Jimmy Kimmel as a threesome and at the Clippers media day, the new big three took the stage together, each with mic in hand. The group was soon asked a question about Rivers. When the reporter finished his query, Jordan and Griffin quickly looked at CP3 for clarity. It wasn’t the first time. Paul laughed while looking at the pair, shaking his head. “Y’all just look at me, huh?”
The trio broke into laughter—the kind that makes you believe it’s true.
|SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013|
Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.