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Chris Paul waits, then finally joins Clippers at practice

Trade with New Orleans in which the point guard was acquired did not become official until Chris Kaman passed a physical with the Hornets. Now all systems are go.

December 17, 2011|By Ben Bolch
  • Chris Paul, second from left, acknowledges a shot by Trey Thompkins (23) as Travis Leslie, left, and Ryan Gomes wait their turns during practice Saturday morning in Playa Vista.
Chris Paul, second from left, acknowledges a shot by Trey Thompkins (23)… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

It was superstar, interrupted.

Chris Paul couldn't practice with his new team Saturday morning because the trade that brought the point guard from New Orleans to the Clippers had not been finalized, keeping Paul from throwing his first lob to Blake Griffin.

"Just watch and wish," Paul said of being on the court with the Clippers.

Paul watched his teammates work on plays, took some jump shots and was cleared to participate in evening practice after Chris Kaman passed his physical with the Hornets and the trade was completed.

Chauncey Billups was more actively involved in the morning session, directing the offense in full-court, non-contact drills during the veteran point guard's first practice since the Clippers won his rights in a waiver auction.

"I was trying to get familiar with everything — play calls, sets," Billups said. "I've run a lot of this stuff, of course, but they're all different calls, so just trying to get familiar."

The Clippers point guard most comfortable with the team's playbook wasn't talking. Asked why Mo Williams wouldn't speak with reporters, a team official said Williams wasn't available and declined to elaborate.

Williams has gone from starter to reserve after the Clippers roster shakeup, a difficult transition for a player who only a week ago seemed excited about his role on a team he guaranteed would make the playoffs.

"You bring in two All-Star point guards, it's tough," Billups said. "But at the same time, what I've been trying to tell him is it's not really a slight to him — look who's here.

"But Mo's going to be fine, man. He's a dangerous player and he just became a little more dangerous because now he's going to be playing against backups and not starters and he's going to be the best in the league at it."

Though Paul will be the starting point guard and Billups the starting shooting guard, Paul said the labels aren't important because both players are guards who can handle the ball. Playing alongside another point guard will be a familiar arrangement for Paul, who shared the backcourt with Jarrett Jack last season in New Orleans.

Bringing Williams, another former All-Star, off the bench will provide the Clippers with quality depth few teams can match.

"Having some depth at those positions obviously isn't the worst thing any time," Coach Vinny Del Negro said, "but especially in the shortened season we have with the way the schedule is set up."

Paul compared himself to a quarterback learning a new playbook, something he and Billups are doing at a hotel while they assess more permanent living arrangements. Paul's wife was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles on Saturday to go shopping for a home.

"I'm not sure where I'm going to live yet," Paul said. "I'm all about convenience."

Paul called waking up in Southern California and knowing it was now his home "like a shock."

"It's nice to wake up every morning and see this nice weather and come to this nice facility," he said, referring to the Clippers' headquarters in Playa Vista. "The Clipper fans have been amazing around the city and I'm really just excited to be here."

Fans can see the Clippers' new backcourt in action for the first time during an intrasquad scrimmage Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the Galen Center. The scrimmage is free and open to the public.

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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