Paul helps Clippers forget history
PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- I laughed the first time Chris Paul said it. We all did.
"I'm excited to be here in L.A. with this unbelievable franchise with so much history behind it," Paul said at his introductory news conference back in December.
History? Clippers history? This poor guy had no idea what he was in for.
Wait until somebody told him about the "Clipper Curse." No, wait until the "Clipper Curse" reared up and bit him or one of his teammates. He'd learn.
It has been nearly six months since Paul arrived in Los Angeles and donned a Clippers jersey for the first time, and no one is laughing anymore. In fact, he has done so much in just one season, I don't really remember why it was so funny in the first place.
History? Clippers history? In a way, it began on that day back in December when Paul arrived.
This new normal is so entrenched now, you almost forget how different it used to be in these parts. When the Clippers are down late in the game, you expect them to win. Or rather, you expect Paul to pull it out for them.
When one of the NBA's elite teams come to town, you expect the Clippers to rise to the challenge, not shrink from it. Heck, after they went on the road to win Game 7 in Memphis with both Paul and Blake Griffin ailing, you almost expected them to come back from a three-games-to-none deficit against the San Antonio Spurs. There was a solar eclipse on Sunday, after all.
It's the little things too. The Clippers used to put a news release out for anything good that happened to the organization. When they earned an audience with LeBron James back in the summer of 2010, the second the clock struck midnight on the East Coast at the start of the free agent signing period, out went the mass e-mail boasting about the meeting.
And if you showed up to a news conference, there was always food. Good food, too. Catered sandwiches and pastas and drinks. Not just pizza from wherever is closest.
Some of that is just their communications staff having good manners and an old-school mentality. But just as much was them knowing they needed to do those types of things to get attention for their players and positive stories about the organization.
That's all changing now. Things are more low key. More understated. The Clippers held exit interviews Monday at their gleaming new $50-million practice facility and left out only glasses of water, a cooler of Red Bulls and some coffee.
There are no plans to make a stink about offering a contract extension to Blake Griffin this summer. That'll just happen the way it happens everywhere else around the NBA when a young superstar is eligible for a contract extension. Griffin's agent, Sam Goldfeder, will work on it with Clippers GM Neil Olshey and they'll just do it, if Griffin indeed chooses to do it.
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It's how it should be. Normal.
Only this is a new normal for the Clippers. A normal established by Chris Paul, ironically, because he had no idea what normal had been for the Clippers in the past.
Paul cared about playing with Griffin, Caron Butler, DeAndre Jordan and Chauncey Billups, not all the strange things that have befallen the organization in the past. He was not interested in any of the Clipper Curse stories. Not even the best one I've ever heard from Tim Thomas, who is still freaked out about the night the mirror in his hotel bathroom simply fell off the wall as he was in the other room.
"It just fell off the wall," Thomas told me back in 2009. "Nothing happened, the mirror just fell off the wall. That's bad luck, isn't it?"
Paul never wanted to hear any of those stories. They weren't relevant anymore. Not to him, anyway.
"I'm all about what's next," Paul said.