Chris Paul in white home jersy smiling

Malone: Chris Paul Best Leader I’ve Ever Been Around

Rowan Kavner

LOS ANGELES – As the son of an NBA head coach, Nuggets head coach Mike Malone has seen his fair share of players with leadership traits.

The best, in his opinion, is Chris Paul.

“All I can speak to from my experience, he’s probably the best leader I’ve ever been around,” Malone said.

Paul called Malone “his guy,” as the two built a strong relationship when Malone was an assistant coach in New Orleans in Paul’s final season with the team before coming to the Clippers.

Clearly, the respect is mutual.

“Being a leader is tough, because you can’t be a leader and want everybody to like you,” Malone said. “My father’s been in the NBA for 30 years. For him, Isaiah Thomas was the best leader as a player he was ever around. Sometimes a leader has to get on guys and say things they may not want to hear, but they need to hear it…I think Chris is an unbelievable leader, an unbelievable competitor, and that’s why I think he’s one of the best point guards in the NBA.”

Paul scored 12 points to go with nine assists and five rebounds in just over 22 minutes against his former coach in Friday’s preseason opener.

But beyond a box score, Malone sees intangible traits in Paul that make him stand out.

“Chris is just a player that has great passion for the game,” Malone said. “He loves the game. That’s one thing I don’t think people understand. Chris is a student of the game.

“The reason he and I got close is because at 11 o’clock at night, we’d be calling each other or texting each other talking about the game we just watched on NBATV. He loves the game. That’s just who he is. He is just ultra-competitive and a guy who’s willing to do whatever it takes to win a basketball game.”

Malone said when they went to the playoffs together during the 2010-11 season, Paul made everyone around him better. That’s a trait head coach Doc Rivers could use as Paul and the nucleus of the Clippers’ returning starters work to assimilate a whole new cast around them and build chemistry.

“Chemistry can grow,” Rivers said. “In 2010, we had no chemistry and people had given up on us and all of a sudden, the second half of the year things start clicking, guys start getting together and the next thing you know we found ourselves in the Finals again. So, it can happen a lot of ways.”

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