LOS ANGELES -- For the past year, Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has asked Chris Paul to be more aggressive early in games. For the better part of that time, Paul has nodded his head at Del Negro while allowing the game to come to him and deferring to his teammates in the first quarter.
Paul hasn't done that during the Clippers' four-game winning streak, and after seeing the results, he doesn't plan on taking his foot off the gas any time soon.
"A lot of the guys have been telling me that I need to be more aggressive, that I'm letting guys off the hook," Paul said. "I'm going to try and do that from here on out."
It was music to the ears of Del Negro, who would continually ask Paul to be more assertive earlier in games, especially when his teammates were struggling.
"He understands he has to change his mindset a little bit," Del Negro said. "He knows that. It's not easy for him. He's such an unselfish player, but he puts us in a position of strength when he has that mentality of being aggressive. He knows he has to come out and set the tone for us."
It's not that Paul is a shy shooter. His shot attempts increase as the game progresses, but if the Clippers are down 10 early while Paul passively tries to give his teammates their touches, as has happened in a couple of bad losses to Cleveland and New Orleans this season, it's all for naught.
"I've always been the type to let the game come to me," Paul said. "I don't know. I'm going to see how that works out. I always try to get everybody involved. I have the ball in my hand so much I always know I have the opportunity to score but at times we do play better when I'm aggressive earlier."
Paul's teammates have echoed Del Negro's sentiments about Paul needing to be more aggressive earlier in games. No one has talked to Paul more about it than Chauncey Billups, who is out indefinitely because of peroneal tendinitis in his left foot. Billups, who will miss this weekend's games, has constantly been in Paul's ear about imposing his will early in games and taking his shots if they're available.
"He's usually being played a certain way in the beginning of games," Clippers forward Caron Butler said. "Instead of being overly aggressive in those situations, whether he's being blitzed or with hard shows [on pick-and-rolls], he’s usually getting off the ball and creating opportunities for myself and other teammates, and then obviously in the third and fourth quarter, he finds a rhythm and takes over the game."
Paul didn't always let the game come to him. When he first came into the league, he was far more aggressive early. To get back into that mindset, Paul has been watching old film of himself to see what he did and how he played early in games.
"I watch so much film," Paul said. "I watch film of me from my rookie year and my second year. I watch film all day, every day. I always tell myself that I feel better now than I felt three years ago as far as my body so why not be aggressive and be like I was in the past?"
When he's sitting at home or on the plane or bus on the road, Paul is usually watching film of himself on the Synergy Sports Technology website that has essentially archived his every movement since he has been in the league.
"I can watch every shot that I've made since I've been in the NBA," Paul said. "That's all I do on the road or at home. I watch this website, just watching all the shots I've made, missed, turnovers, steals, assists, everything. It's funny because we all grow; our body changes. There are things I did when I was younger, and I wonder why I don't do that anymore. It's just how your game changes."
Paul's game has certainly changed over his career, but for the Clippers to be successful late in games, he knows he'll have to revert back to his old ways at the beginning of games.