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Chris Paul downplaying first game back in Los Angeles

From NBA media reports

* Tonight on TNT: Rockets vs. Clippers (10:30 ET)

It’s one of the go-to storylines in sports, the star player who left a team via free agency or a requested trade returning to face his former club. It was a big deal when Kevin Durant and Dwyane Wade did it last season, it was a big deal when Paul George and Carmelo Anthony did it earlier this season — and hoo boy, it was an insane deal when LeBron James did it seven years ago.

So while it’s understandable that Chris Paul might not have wanted to engage fully with that angle on the eve of his return to face the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night – things can get emotional in such subplots – there was no avoiding it either. Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times noted that Paul “fidgeted” when being asked Sunday about his return with the Houston Rockets to face old friends and (cough) others:

In what was his typical way of dealing with touchy subjects during his six years with the Clippers, Paul didn’t provide much insight on why he so badly wanted to depart L.A. and how strained the relations became with that group.

“I understand the game and all that stuff, but it’s not about me,” Paul said, as he sought to downplay his return. “It’s about us and doing what we came out here to do.”

Paul said he still talks to [DeAndre] Jordan, Wesley Johnson, Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Jasen Powell, the team’s head athletic trainer.

Paul even said he has enjoyed his conversations with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. Paul, though, did not discuss any riffs he had with [forward Blake] Griffin or [coach Doc] Rivers.

“It don’t matter. It doesn’t matter now,” Paul said, his voice rising. “All that stuff is in the past. I’m so glad to be in a space now where I am where I am and I’m excited.”

Comb through Turner’s story and you’ll notice some conspicuous absences. While Paul talks of his respect and desire not to burn a bridge with Ballmer and some others, he doesn’t give so much as a shout-out to Rivers or Griffin.

Which is why fans will pay a little extra attention to the Rockets’ visit to Staples Center tonight.


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