LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul endured two weeks of sleepless nights, stressful days and at least one imploded trade before he finally found a new home with the Los Angeles Clippers.
That’s just one reason the West Coast looks so good to the superstar point guard, who’s eager to start turning his new franchise into the greatest show in L.A.
The Clippers formally introduced their new acquisition on Thursday night after he spent the day at their Playa Vista training complex. The longtime New Orleans guard tried on his new No. 3 jersey and met with Blake Griffin and the rest of his revitalized teammates, who can’t wait to catch the four-time All-Star’s passes.
“This is not my day, by the way. This is the Clippers’ day,” Paul told an overflowing media crowd. “This is a humbling experience, and I’m so grateful and thankful to be here.”
A day earlier, the Clippers acquired Paul in a four-player trade with the Hornets, outmaneuvering the Lakers and several other suitors for the players widely considered the NBA’s best point guard. Paul realizes his move is a bold endorsement of the long-struggling Clippers, who have been overshadowed by the 16-time champions for three decades in Southern California.
Paul already realizes what side he’s taking in the one-sided Staples Center rivalry, repeatedly refusing to talk about the Lakers’ squashed trade for him — even refusing to say the Lakers’ name.
“The other team has won championships, and it’s about winning, but I think Blake has done an unbelievable job changing that (perception),” Paul said. “You can’t take anything away from him about how he has changed the culture here in L.A. I’m coming here to join and be a part of it, and hopefully we can grow together as basketball players and continue to change everything. That’s what we play for.”
Griffin is sad to lose teammates Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Al-Farouq Aminu in the deal, but the Rookie of the Year is looking forward to lining up with Paul and fellow newcomers Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups, called “my big brother” by Paul.
“We’ve got a lot or work to do,” Griffin said. “The target has shifted a little bit, but the only thing I’m going to promise is that you’re going to get our best every night. And when you hear ‘The Clippers,’ it’s not going to be a joke anymore. I can guarantee you that.”
Paul is eager to play with Griffin after they teamed up last year at the All-Star game in Los Angeles. He knows fans are already salivating at the prospect of Paul’s passes finding Griffin for all varieties of vicious dunks.
“That’s something that’s not going to happen overnight either,” Paul said. “I’ve got to find the right height. It’s like Blake plays on a goal that’s lower than 10 foot or something. I’m excited for the opportunity to not only help him grow, but for him to help me to get to the next level.”
Clippers vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey credited owner Donald Sterling and Paul’s agent, Leon Rose, for pushing through a trade that stalled at numerous points thanks to the Hornets’ ownership by the NBA.
“His commitment to wanting to be here is what inspired me to not give up,” Olshey said of Paul. “When it got to the point where both our goals met late (Wednesday) afternoon, we just got in a room and got on with Mr. Sterling and said, ‘If we’re going to take this quantum leap as a franchise, it’s going to have to be with a superstar, and that’s Chris.'”
Paul has told the Clippers he’ll exercise his player option for next season, keeping him alongside Griffin, center DeAndre Jordan and their supporting cast for at least two years. The Clippers’ braintrust is confident they’ll win enough in that stretch to persuade the club’s core players to stick together.
“You can’t win a championship without stars,” Olshey said. “We took the last few years, we think we’ve drafted at a high level, we’ve accumulated assets, and it just came where it was time to push our chips to the middle of the table. We all just got in the room and realized we can continue this gradual growth pattern, follow this business model, or we can go all-in. You’ve got to give action to get action. We gave up value, and we like to think we got more value in return.”
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.