LOS ANGELES -- Chris Paul reached another milestone in his career Saturday night and once again he reacted by smiling, shrugging his shoulders and saying, "It's cool."
Paul became only the seventh player in NBA history to reach 6,000 assists before the end of his ninth season, joining Jason Kidd, John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Isiah Thomas, Norm Nixon and Oscar Robertson. Paul, Johnson, Stockton and Thomas are the only players in the group to hit the milestone before their 29th birthday.
"He's somebody that I watched and I admired," said Paul, who spoke to Thomas during a timeout in the first quarter. "Isiah is one of the greatest and one of the best to ever play the game. I think that fierceness that he played with and that edge. ...I'm not as quick or fast as he ever was or as crafty. I always have this burnt image in my head of Isiah Thomas, he was in a double team and he kept doing these crossovers. He's unreal."
It's not the first time Paul has been asked about Thomas. He has been compared to the Pistons' Hall of Fame point guard for years. They have similar builds, are fiercely competitive and have a knack for finding an open teammate or a creating their own shot.
There is, however, one big difference between the two, and it's the biggest reason Paul simply shrugs when asked about reaching these regular-season statistical milestones.
"It's an honor and a privilege, but Zeke won championships though," Paul said. "I'll never forget the game in the [1988 NBA Finals] where his ankle was hurt and he was running circles around everyone."
Thomas played in three straight NBA Finals and won back-to-back titles with the Pistons. Paul has yet to make it past the second round of the playoffs and isn't ashamed to admit that when asked to talk about himself in the same breathe as the likes of Thomas, Johnson and Robertson.
"I didn't even know I had 6,000 assists," Paul said. "I'm so focused on winning games and not really the individual achievements."
Thomas sounded just as honored to be compared to Paul during an interview with the Clippers' website during the game.
"It's great watching him play," Thomas told LACTV. "It's awesome to see him achieve this level. It's always an honor to be compared to him because he's such a great player, such a great leader on the floor and what he's done for this franchise and what he's done for Los Angeles, it speaks volumes. I'm just honored because he's such a special player and such a special person. I hope I was half as good as he is because it's quite an honor to be compared to him."
While Thomas was obviously being modest, he was speaking in the midst of watching Paul having one of his better games of the season. Paul finished the night with 28 points, 15 assists, six steals and four rebounds. He became only the fourth player since the 1985-86 season -- and first since Gary Payton in 2000 -- to hit at least those numbers across a stat line.
"Chris is an amazing point guard, one of the best of all time," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "He played in front of one of the best of all time tonight in Isiah. They're very similar in a lot of ways."
Jamal Crawford, who played for Thomas when he was the coach of the New York Knicks, has often compared Paul to his former coach and believes Paul, much like Thomas, will go down as one of the greatest point guards of all time.
"I just think sometimes every generation you see players that are similar," Crawford said. "Like I say, there's only one Michael Jordan, but I think Kobe [Bryant] is the closest player we'll ever see to Jordan. And I think there's only one Isiah Thomas, but for this generation I think Chris is the closest player we'll see to him. I think his moxie, his toughness, his leadership, how he can control the game, those are all things that Isiah used to do. Being a little guy and winning championships like Isiah did, I think that inspires Chris. I'm sure that was one of his favorite players growing up, and he's had a direct effect on him."