Monty Williams coached Chris Paul for one season with the New Orleans Hornets, for a total of 88 regular season and playoff contests, including a first-round playoff exit to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In that span, he learned all about Paul, he says. He learned why he's been so successful in the NBA and why he has a reputation as such a fierce competitor on the court. He also learned why he doesn't necessarily mesh with every single teammate.
And Williams said that's one of the reasons why the Clippers haven't had as much success as many expected them to this season.
"It takes a while to learn how to play with Chris," Williams, still the Hornets' coach, said before Monday night's game against the Clippers. "Those guys are still trying to figure it out. He's a leader, and a lot of guys don't want to be led. They talk like they do, but they really don't.
"Everybody wants to lead until things get tough -- he leads all the time."
Paul led his team quite well in Monday's win over New Orleans, with 25 points, 10 assists and four steals, all game-highs. And he shot 9-of-17 from the field in logging a game-high 35 minutes.
Afterward, he said he knew exactly what Williams meant with his pregame comments. Paul's mindset, he said, is "totally different" than many others' across the league. His hope is that it rubs off on his teammates, which it has at some points this season but clearly not at all points.
"I had to adjust to the team some and they're adjusting to me," Paul said. "I had to back off a little bit and that's what comes with being a team."
Clippers guard Randy Foye spent his rookie season on the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2006-2007, where he played with Kevin Garnett. Foye said Garnett would make his presence known as a leader not just during games but also during team dinners, card games on flights and in practices. He did it so often, no one even questioned when he spoke out or barked violently a time or two in key moments.
"That's what Chris does too," Foye said.
Williams said he appreciated Paul's style, but he said you have to allow for the possibility that some long-tenured veterans in the league might not.
"If you take it the wrong way, you'll get your feelings hurt," Williams said. "But he's a leader and sometimes it takes a while to adjust to it, especially when you bring a lot of veterans in.
"It may take a minute for those guys to figure out they should let him lead."
The Clippers don't have too many minutes remaining this season with only 17 games left in the abbreviated schedule.