Thursday, March 13, 2014
Paul takes extra steps to get it right
By Arash Markazi
LOS ANGELES -- Moments after the Los Angeles Clippers recorded their ninth straight win and took a big step toward clinching their second consecutive Pacific Division title, Chris Paul could not sit still in the locker room.
He took off his jersey, grabbed a basketball and walked back to the court with his four-year old son, Chris II, assistant coach Dave Severns and a ball boy. As Staples Center was being cleaned, Paul shot for over 20 minutes after the game from every corner of the court. Severns would direct Paul where to go, the ball boy would grab his rebounds and pass it to Paul's son who quickly passed it to his dad. The postgame routine took so long that Paul's wife, Jada, left early as did many media members waiting to talk to Paul in the postgame media room.
As he walked into the room over an hour after the game had ended, Paul apologized as he held his yawning son's hand.
"I just knew y'all were gone," Paul said. "I'm so sorry."
Paul had 16 points, 12 assists, eight rebounds and three steals but cringed as he looked down at the box score again and saw that he was 5-for-15 from the field. That simply wasn't good enough, even after the Clippers defeated the Warriors, 111-98, to take a five-game lead atop the division with 16 games left in the season.
"I had to practice," Paul said. "During the game, you wouldn't think, but I say it all the time, I struggle with confidence and things like that. I just didn't feel like I couldn't throw it in the ocean, so I wanted to go shoot now."
It was the first time Paul has shot postgame since he has been in Los Angeles and the first time anyone can remember him doing that since 2008 when Paul was the runner-up for the MVP award and his New Orleans Hornets fell one win shy of the Western Conference finals.
Paul was 22 at the time and in his third season in the league, and he thought that every season would be like that. He'd be in a neck-and-neck race for the MVP and playing into June. The truth is, Paul has never come as close to an MVP or a title as he did that season.
Six years later, Paul is 28, a father of two, and realizes that seasons like this can't be taken for granted. Paul is playing alongside Blake Griffin, who has vaulted himself into the MVP race, for a championship coach in Doc Rivers, and has a chance to make it past the second round of the playoffs for the first time in his career.
"I don't know, it's just different this year," Paul said. "We have a special team and a special opportunity that doesn't come around very often and I have to do my part."
Rivers smiled as he sat in the interview room and heard Paul was back on the court, practicing his shot well after the game was over.
"He's pissed that he missed shots," Rivers said. "I like that. Chris is a warrior and he wants to get it right."
Paul struggled with his shot for much of Wednesday night's game. In fact, he was 2-for-11 in the closing seconds of the third quarter before he hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Clippers an 84-79 lead going into the fourth quarter.
"It's funny because I told Blake we were going to run the last play," Paul said. "There was 40 seconds left and Doc said, 'I'm going to get you out so you can get some rest. This might be your only rest.' But I said, 'No coach, leave me in. I need to make a shot.' So I told Blake, 'I'm going to you on the post, they're leaving me and I'm going to make one.' Blake trusted me enough and luckily the shot went in."
Griffin wasn't surprised to hear Paul was back on the court shooting long after the game as he changed and got ready to leave the arena just as Paul returned back to the locker room from his impromptu postgame practice.
"C.P. is a leader doing something like that," Griffin said. "He puts a lot on himself and after a game where he hit big shots for him to go do that shows you how hungry he is and that's the way our whole team is. A win like this isn't a time for us to be complacent. We feel we can be much better than we are right now."