Previous Player Capsules:
It was December 16, a day after Chris Paul was acquired from the New Orleans Hornets, when Blake Griffin said, "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."
More than anything erasing those memories of three consecutive losing seasons was what Paul was charged with when he joined the team nine days before opening night. Paul said history didn't matter, maybe he was right, or maybe he just rewrote it.
Gallery | Chris Paul: 2011-12 Season
In his first year in Los Angeles, Paul was an All-Star, first team All-Defense and first team All-NBA performer, and showed the kind of resolve and competitiveness that embodied the previous six years of his young career. He was a vocal leader with Del Negro describing him as "bulldog." And he averaged 19.8 points with 9.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds, and a league-high 2.5 steals. His brilliance in the fourth quarter was such a customary occurrence that it became less of a spectacle and more of an expectation.
"When the game is on the line, he's as good as there is," Del Negro said.
Paul shot 42.4% from the field in the final five minutes when the Clippers or their opponent were within five points. By comparison, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, the only two players with more field goal attempts in the same situation, shot 36.1% and 39.2% respectively.
Aside from game-winning shots against Philadelphia, Portland, and Oklahoma City, Paul led the league in clutch free throw shooting. He made 54-of-56 attempts in the final five minutes, good for 96.4%. Only Dirk Nowitzki, Russell Westbrook, Joe Johnson, and Tony Parker had more than 30 attempts and shot better than 90%.
The Clippers last season advanced to the second round for the second time since 2006, but for Paul and Company it wasn't good enough. After the team was eliminated by the Spurs he said the best thing in his mind was that nobody in the Clippers' locker room was satisfied with where they finished. It seems as though he's been motivated by that sentiment heading into the offseason.
"You try not to get as many miles on your body [after the season ends], but at the same time you have to get out here and work. You know, I'm 27 years old, but I've been playing a lot of basketball for a long time, so I try to save as much as possible."
At the time he also updated the status of his injured groin and hip, which hampered him throughout the postseason. "I'm feeling a lot better," he said. "Our training staff, to me, is the best in the league and as soon as the season was over we did a few things to get me back right."
According to Severns, there are few on the court things the Clippers' staff would like to see Paul work on this summer.
Paul is also a lock to make his second Olympic squad, which Severns thinks will be about a lot more for the point guard than simply competing for his second gold medal.
"The Olympics will help the development of his relationship with Blake," Severns said. "It will also allow him to serve as an ambassador for the Clippers. He can share his excitement about the team and get good news out about the team to the rest of the league and the world."
There could be no better team ambassador.
comments powered by Disqus