Shootaround (July 12) -- Chris Paul looks back on end of era with LA Clippers
Plus, Gordon Hayward's father details his son's free-agency path and other news from around the NBA
This morning’s headlines:
- Paul reflects on days with Clippers
- Caldwell-Pope gambles on self with 1-year deal
- Gibson, Teague ready to roll with Thibodeau
- Hayward’s father details son’s free-agency saga
Paul on trade: ‘It was time for a change’ — The LA Clippers’ greatest era of success began when the team acquired Chris Paul before the 2011-12 season. His play birthed the “Lob City” era for the Clippers, but for all the highlights he, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Co. amassed, deep playoff runs were their kryptonite. As Paul readies for his first season in Houston come 2017-18, he spoke with The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears about why he wanted out of LA, his Clippers days and more:
In an exclusive interview with The Undefeated on Monday night, Paul spoke publicly for the first time about his decision to leave the Clippers for the Rockets. The nine-time NBA All-Star said it was best for him and the Clippers to move on after six seasons that did not include a Western Conference finals appearance. Now in his prime at 32 years old, Paul believes he can finally quench his thirst for victory in Houston and has no regrets.
“It had nothing to do with who was in L.A., but more to do with who was in Houston,” Paul said.
How did you come to the decision to make a change to the Rockets?
For me, first of all, I love the Clippers and the organization. [Owner] Steve Ballmer has been unbelievable. The relationship I made with him over the last few years is something that won’t go anywhere. I’m grateful, thankful and so blessed. I feel like I’m leaving Los Angeles with nothing but love.
So why leave the Clippers?
I feel like the last six years we’ve had a great run. I felt like it was not only a good time for change for me, but for the team, too. Everyone says, ‘We get killed. We can’t get there. We just can’t get over the hurdle.’ I felt like it was time for change.
How do you look back on your franchise-altering time with the Clippers? Do you see yourself getting your jersey retired there one day?
That is up to the organization and how they feel. I got an opportunity to grow here. It’s unreal to think about the times that we had. … We had some good runs.
What can you say about your relationship with Coach Rivers?
Doc was an unbelievable coach the past four years with the things I got a chance to learn and hear. I always say that my late [Wake Forest] coach Skip Prosser had so many different things he would say. He would say, ‘Never delay gratitude. … If you can’t be on time, be early.’ All that good stuff.
There are certain things that Doc has said the past four years, where when I find myself with my AAU team or kids, I say. I say all the same stuff. I’m grateful for the past four years. But not only Doc; [assistant coach] Armond Hill was someone I got really close with. I’m going to miss those guys. Our athletic trainer, Jasen Powell, became like family to me. My teammates. I’m going to miss them.
Rivers recently told The Undefeated that he didn’t always see eye to eye with you, but he always respected you. What do you think of those words?
Absolutely. I feel like in any relationship whoever it is … hell, me and my brother [C.J.] don’t always see eye to eye. But I always have the ultimate respect for [Rivers], and I’m grateful for the last four years.
What will you miss the most about the end of “Lob City”?
It’s crazy to look back at the videos of us six years ago. No one ever saw anything like that. I’m going to miss those guys. When you’re together that long, you’re more than teammates.
Did you feel when you walked off the floor after losing a deciding Game 7 of a first-round series against the Utah Jazz that you had played your last game with the Clippers?
No. No. I know we lost Game 7. I didn’t know. I didn’t think about it. I don’t even operate like that. I’m all about that moment. I’m trying to figure out why we lost and what I could do to help us win. I didn’t know that was my last time.
Caldwell-Pope bets on himself with 1-year deal — When free agency began, many probably expected free-agent guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to return to Detroit. Yet once the Pistons swung a trade for Avery Bradley last week, they had to rescind their qualifying offer to Caldwell-Pope and he became an unrestricted free agent. Faced with a few more options than before on the open market, he opted yesterday for a one-year deal with the Los Angeles Lakers that puts some pressure on him, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:
Five days after the Detroit Pistons pulled Caldwell-Pope’s qualifying offer in the wake of the trade for Avery Bradley, making Caldwell-Pope an unrestricted free agent, Caldwell-Pope has reportedly landed with the Los Angeles Lakers.
ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst was first to report the one-year, $18 million agreement late Tuesday night.
The deal officially marks the end of Caldwell-Pope’s tenure in Detroit, which began in 2014 when the Pistons used the eighth pick of the NBA draft on the 6-foot-4 Georgia shooting guard.
Caldwell-Pope played well this season until receiving a vicious pick from Golden State Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, which caused Caldwell-Pope to miss four games with a shoulder injury.
He struggled the rest of the way, but the Pistons extended a $4.9 million qualifying offer with the intention of negotiating a new deal when the free agency moratorium began July 1.
But a deal didn’t materialize and the Pistons signed combo guard Langston Galloway and later traded Marcus Morris to the Boston Celtics for Bradley.
With the drafting of Duke shooting guard Luke Kennard, the Pistons viewed Caldwell-Pope as expendable and they rescinded the qualifying offer.
Gibson, Teague excited to play for Thibodeau — The Minnesota Timberwolves have a decided Chicago-like flair to their roster now, having added ex-Bulls Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson in the offseason. Throw in new, veteran point guard Jeff Teague and Minneapolis has a lot more NBA talent to throw around. Coach Tom Thibodeau will try to mesh these veterans with a youthful cast and, according to Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune, both Gibson and Teague are looking forward to Thibodeau’s coaching influence on them:
Butler has called his formative NBA years with Thibodeau a “love-hate” relationship and Gibson isn’t one to quibble with the three-time All Star concerning Thibodeau’s gruff exterior and commitment to coaching every single possession, no matter the score or time remaining.
“Thibs understands I’m tough,” Gibson said. “He can throw anything at me, and I’m going to bulldoze right through it. Any kind of situation, any kind of perseverance, anything. He threw those things at me my second year in the league, and I’m not going to shy away from anything.”
Thibodeau was hired as Bulls coach in 2010 after Gibson’s rookie season and the two parted ways professionally when the Bulls fired Thibodeau in May 2015.
Now they’re reunited and Gibson acknowledged that sometimes you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.
“His shell is so hard, but once you finally break into his shell, he’s an awesome guy,” Gibson said. “My first year, two years, he played me a lot of minutes, but I never really talked to him. It was all X’s and O’s, but he really counted on me in tough situations. In practice, he always screamed at me, yelled at me and I never even reacted.
“But as years went on, we kind of grew a mutual respect and now when we talk, it’s like best friends almost. When we talk, it’s like a father that you see every day. It’s a great relationship.”
Newly signed point guard Jeff Teague hasn’t played for Thibodeau before, but his younger brother, Marquis, did in Chicago. Teague played against Thibodeau’s Bulls usually four times a season when Teague played for Atlanta.
“I know that voice from a mile away,” Teague said. “I’m excited. I want to be pushed, and no other coach in the league is going to push you like Thibs. My brother had an opportunity to play for him. He told me he’s going to be tough on you, but any kind of player wants a coach that’s going to be in your corner.”
Hayward’s father details son’s move to Boston — Gordon Hayward, by his own word, picked the Boston Celtics over the incumbent Utah Jazz in free agency. That deal isn’t yet official, so Hayward’s words on how his decision/team reveal went down won’t be known until then. The Boston Herald‘s Adam Himmelsbach spoke with Hayward’s father, Gordon Hayward, Sr., about just how agonizing of a choice it was:
Just after midnight on July 1, 2014, Celtics coach Brad Stevens sent a text message to Gordon Scott Hayward and his wife, Jody.
Stevens had just finished his first season in Boston after spending the previous 12 years at Butler, where he had coached the couple’s son, Gordon.
Gordon had just finished his fourth season with the Utah Jazz, and he was a restricted free agent. Stevens knew the Celtics were not in position to sign him, but he wanted the family to know he hoped they could reunite someday.
Just after midnight this past July 1, Stevens texted Hayward’s parents again. This time, the All-Star forward was an unrestricted free agent. And this time, the 53-win Celtics were in line to make a maximum-contract offer.
“His text said, ‘I hope all is well. We’re really looking forward to having Gordon come visit,’ ” Hayward Sr. said.
Utah and Boston were more obvious choices. The Jazz drafted Hayward ninth overall in 2010 and he was now a leader on a young, rising team. Also, Utah could offer a five-year, $172.4 million deal while others could give no more than four years and $128 million.
The Celtics, meanwhile, had just finished with the best record in the Eastern Conference and they had a powerful foundation as well as a slew of upcoming draft picks. Also, they had Stevens.
Hayward wanted to go somewhere where an NBA championship was possible, but he had no interest in a ready-made situation, such as the one Kevin Durant entered when he signed with the Warriors last summer.
Hayward Sr. said that if the Celtics had defeated the Cavaliers in the conference finals, his son would have been less interested. But it was clear watching them get pummeled by LeBron James that they needed help, and perhaps he could provide it.
Gordon Hayward Sr. decided before the tour began that he would not speak to his son after each visit, because he knew that if any team made a strong case — and they all would — Hayward would want to decide that day. So he told Gordon he would wait until he was finished, and then help him assess them all at once.
Even though Hayward is intimately familiar with Stevens’s style, seven years have passed since he last coached him. Hayward is a much better basketball player now, and as he sat with Stevens, it became more obvious that Stevens was a much better coach.
“Gordon said to me, ‘Dad, it was impressive. It was amazing,’ ” the father said.
Hayward, who has two young girls with his wife, Robyn, told his father that the Celtics’ family focus had stuck with him, too. For example, Stevens allows players to bring their spouses and children on the team plane during road trips.
When the phone call ended at about 3 a.m., Hayward Sr. thought the Celtics had become the favorites, but even Gordon did not know for sure.
“He had not decided, but he was definitely leaning,” Hayward Sr. said. “That’s kind of all I knew. And then you had the whole mess on the Fourth of July.”
At 7:48 p.m., Hayward posted the Players’ Tribune story in which he announced that he would, indeed, be a Celtic. Hayward Sr. did not know he was going to reveal his choice that way. He later asked Gordon why he hadn’t just used his own website, and he explained that it could never have handled that much traffic. Sure enough, the site crashed that day even though no announcement was posted there.
When the process finally ended, Hayward Sr. and Jody mostly felt relief. They were happy for their son, but they also empathized with Jazz fans.
“I mean, I grew up in Indiana, and I’m not saying Gordon is Reggie Miller, but if Reggie Miller had left in the middle of his career, that would have been really sad to me,” the father said. “So, it’s really tough. It’s a tough situation. But is he supposed to stay in Utah just so he just doesn’t disappoint others?”
Hayward was just two years removed from high school when he was drafted by the Jazz. His father said he “grew into a man” in Utah, and he praised the organization for how it helped him develop. The parents made close friends in the area, too.
Hayward Sr. said his son was stung by the vitriol from some Jazz fans after his decision, even if it was just a small pocket of them.
“It is tough on him,” the father said. “I know it’s hard on him. I know his decision hurt some people, but, you know, the burning of his jerseys, that’s hurtful, too.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Nuggets waived Mike Miller yesterday … Longtime Bucks fans are experiencing sticker shock over the cost of seats in the team’s new arena … The Pistons are reported bringing back reserve forward Anthony Tolliver on a one-year deal … Dewayne Dedmon and the Atlanta Hawks reportedly reached a deal last night … Heat guard Dion Waiters likes his team’s chances against anyone in the East (including the Cavs) …