PAUL CONFIRMS HE WILL PLAY IN ALL-STAR GAME

LOS ANGELES – After returning to the court from a separated right shoulder in a 123-78 victory over the76ers Sunday, Chris Paul announced Monday that he will play in this weekend’s All-Star Game at New Orleans Arena.

“It was all about me getting healthy,” Paul said. “It was more important for me to get healthy and be there for my team and my teammates. The All-Star Game is an honor and a privilege, but being healthy is the most important thing. The All-Star Game was second, but it feels good to be ready to go.”

Paul was the 2013 All-Star MVP and was selected as an All-Star for the seventh time in his nine-year career when he was named as a reserve two weeks ago. But there was still some doubt about whether or not he would be ready to play in time for the game.

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said there may not be a more perfect situation for Paul to get court time than a game that is traditionally bereft of defense.

“I like him playing in the All-Star Game, personally,” Rivers said. “I think this is a rare case where he’s ready to play and the All-Star Game is probably the safest venue for him to play because it’s such a defensive struggle. Guys are taking charges and diving on the floor. I think it will just be a good thing for him to just go up and down. It allows him to go up and down in NBA game with really good players that don’t play defense in the game.”

Paul’s appearance in New Orleans will come seven years after his first All-Star Game in the city. Of course, Paul also played six seasons with the Hornets, making his return to New Orleans a momentous occasion.

“For me in 2008, it was an unbelievable experience,” said Paul, who had 16 points, 14 assists and four steals in that game as a 22-year-old. “It was our first year back in New Orleans [after Hurricane Katrina], everyone on our team was excited to be back there and we had me and [David] West plus Byron [Scott] as the coach in the game. I am not sure what the NBA knew to expect coming to New Orleans, but once everyone got there, no one wanted to leave. It was one of the funnest times of my career and a game that I will never forget.”

This time around, much like past All-Star Weekends for Paul, he will have a number of community events around the city. He talked about some of the events he held in the past in New Orleans and what he has going on when he arrives there Thursday morning.

“During the All-Star Game [in 2008], a lot of things that we did were habitat houses,” Paul said. “Fortunately, I had the opportunity to be there a lot more often. Through my foundation, we have done a lot of things like refurbish a lot of basketball courts throughout the city.

“And I actually still have my after school program there in New Orleans at KIPP Central City, the CP3 Afterschool Zone. I am actually going to see the kids on Thursday and those kids at the school are a part of me. Every time we go to play, those kids come to the game to watch and I spend some time with them pregame or go to the school during the day. I still have a lot of extended family in New Orleans. My sister-in-law was born and raised in New Orleans; my entire family is coming with me to the game. My family pastor is still in New Orleans and I am actually going to christen my daughter and my brother is going to christen his two twins in New Orleans when we are there.”