2013-14 PLAYER CAPSULES: CHRIS PAUL
Eric Patten, Clippers.com
Over the next few weeks, Clippers.com will take a look back at the 2013-14 season for each member of the Clippers’ roster and look forward to the offseason and what may be in store for 2014-15. The next installment in our series of player capsules is superstar point guard Chris Paul.
Games in a row that Paul recorded a double-double to start the season, an NBA record. The stretch included one of Paul’s all-time best games when he went for 42 points, 15 assists and six steals in the Clippers’ home opener against the Warriors on Oct. 31.
3-point percentage from Mar. 22 through Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Paul, who is not known for taking a high volume of 3-point shots, had one of his most efficient runs from behind the arc in his career over the final month and a half of the season. In 25 games, he made at least three 3-pointers 10 times, including going 8-for-9 in a sublime Game 1 victory over the Thunder.
Games missed due to a separated right shoulder. Paul’s absence allowed Darren Collison and Jamal Crawford to take over primary ball-handling duties in the backcourt and opened up Blake Griffin’s push for the MVP award. The Clippers went 12-6 in the stretch without Paul and upon his return went 22-6 (.786).
Considering Paul’s previous career accomplishments and otherworldly competitiveness, anything that was achieved in the regular season may seem like a failure. Despite Paul’s seventh All-Star appearance, top 10 finish in MVP voting and leading the league in assists and steals for the third time, his disappointment in his final media appearance of the season after a narrow defeat to the Thunder in Game 6 of the Western Conference Semifinals likely said the most about Paul’s 2013-14 season.
Paul was somewhat despondent, fighting back the emotions of a record season and trying postseason run all coming to a swift conclusion. Two players compared the loss and abrupt end to the season to crashing into a wall and Paul certainly seemed to feel that way, too. He would head into the offseason thinking about the final few possessions of Game 5 when three costly mistakes allowed the Thunder to steal a game, and the series. He would be thinking about Kevin Durant’s offensive outburst in Game 6 and missing makeable shots that could have answered him.
He would have months to think about his shoulder injury and nagging bumps and bruises in the postseason and the back-to-back losses to end a year in which the Clippers owned the league’s second best record from Feb. 9 to Apr. 16. However, it should not dampen the tumult the Clippers overcame in the Playoffs to advance to round two and should not dampen Paul’s finest season in Los Angeles.
In just 62 games, Paul averaged 19.1 points, a league-high 10.7 assists and 2.5 steals. He also compiled 39 double-doubles, a 4.57 assist-to-turnover ratio (second best of his career) and became just the fourth player in NBA history to reach 6,000 assists before his 29th birthday. This all in leading the Clippers to a franchise-record 57 wins and a Game 7 victory over the Warriors.
There were still plenty of questions about how the Clippers would acquit themselves against the Thunder after winning a wild Game 7 in Los Angeles. Would the fog of the Donald Sterling saga be lifted or would they appear content with sifting their way through it and be unprepared for Game 1 in Oklahoma City. Paul led a convincing charge to prove the former correct.
He made his first eight 3-pointers, three better than his career high. He had 10 assists, 32 points and four steals. He was a plus-26 in leading the Clippers to a somewhat stunning, 122-105, win at Chesapeake Energy Arena. And while Blake Griffin scored late and Matt Barnes and J.J. Redick put in early 3-pointers to help set the tone, it was Paul who owned the game. He was the best player on the court. He not only clutched the game’s momentum but seemingly was able to yo-yo it in his favor whenever it was necessary. The Thunder were making a push, Paul would dribble into another 3-pointer to quell the tide. The Clippers needed to get Griffin going after a slow start, Paul found him late to help him earn trips to the foul line. His performance was reminiscent of a Game 1 against the Lakers in 2011, when he was New Orleans Hornet and upset the defending champions with a triple-double for the ages, only this time the stakes were even higher.
Almost immediately after the season, Paul was back in the Clippers’ training center working out. It has been customary in the past for Paul to take more time off, but it was clear the early playoff exit was still eating at him. Plus, he missed 20 games due to injury and battled several nagging problems in the postseason, including groin, ankle and thumb injuries.
As he has in past years, Paul will run a number of camps, including his overnight event in San Diego for children up to 17 years old that took place two weeks ago.