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He can handle it

Paul is a hardwood craftsman, a driven, analytical All-Star who wants to do what has never been done. He has come to the right place.

December 18, 2011|Broderick Turner
  • Chris Paul was unable to participate with the Clippers during Saturday morning's practice, but Ryan Gomes, Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins got a good look at their new teammate as he took some shots at the team's facility in Playa Vista.
Chris Paul was unable to participate with the Clippers during Saturday… (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles…)

There are no shortcuts to success for Chris Paul.

He takes his job of being a professional basketball player seriously. He works tirelessly at every nuance of the game. He prepares physically and mentally.

He is always looking to improve.

In essence, Paul is driven.

This is what the Clippers can expect out of their newest player.

"Everybody has a craft," Paul said. "For me, this is my craft. This is what I love to do. I analyze it and I dissect it to a 'T.' I just pay attention to everything. In any and everything that I do, I want to be the best."

Many feel Paul already is one of the best players in the NBA and the best point guard.

That's why the Clippers worked so hard to acquire the four-time All-Star from the New Orleans Hornets. They finally got him for Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, Al-Farouq Aminu and a first-round draft pick. Byron Scott saw firsthand how much Paul wanted to be the best, how willing the 6-foot guard was to put in extra work.

Scott, the coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, coached Paul in the guard's first three-plus seasons with the Hornets.

Scott saw something in Paul that he saw in Magic Johnson, his former Lakers teammate.

"Both of them hate to lose," Scott said in a telephone interview. "They are ultra-competitive. That's really the biggest thing. The kid just can't stand losing.

"Another thing about him, which was with Magic as well, Chris just loves playing. He loves the competition. He just has an unbelievable passion for the game of basketball. He's just fun to watch."

Paul arrived in L.A. on Thursday morning, had a news conference that night and then itched to practice, something he was finally cleared to do Saturday night.

Earlier Saturday, after the Clippers' first practice, Paul was excited about playing in the team's intrasquad scrimmage Sunday at USC's Galen Center.

If fans watch closely, Paul said, they will see more than him throwing lobs to Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

"When I play point guard, the biggest thing I try to do is just control the game and the tempo on both ends," Paul said. "I also try to gauge the pulse of my teammates and what's going on in the game. Me as a point guard, the biggest thing I pride myself on is taking care of the ball."

Chauncey Billups' will be Paul's backcourt running mate.

Billups has been a top-rate point guard in his own right. He is a five-time All-Star and was the most valuable player of the 2004 NBA Finals, when he led the Detroit Pistons to an upset of the Lakers.

Billups, 35, has been a mentor for Paul.

"He really doesn't have any weaknesses," Billups said. "He knows the game as well as anybody. He has every shot in the book. He can penetrate over big men, pull up and shoot the three-ball. He doesn't have very many weaknesses. Defensively, he's very clever. He gets his hands on a lot of balls."

But there is more to Paul than his basketball skills. Scott raved about the man Paul has become.

"In my heart, I think he's a better person than he is a basketball player," said Scott, who talked via text message with Paul on Friday. "And he's a great basketball player. It's just that he's this special person. They are going to love him with the Clippers."

The expectations have gone through the roof now that Paul is with the Clippers.

He said the fans have to be patient "to a certain extent," but the Clippers have to be aware that "nobody is going to wait on us."

So Paul wants to move forward, to take the Clippers to a place they have never been.

He wants to give long-suffering Clippers fans a championship.

"To tell you the truth, the past had nothing to do with my decision," Paul said. "I'm all about the right now. I looked at the pieces on the team and I saw a great opportunity not only for myself, but for everybody.

"I'm one of those people who is always trying to do what has never been done. So coming to this organization, knowing that they haven't won a championship, I wanted to strive for that. I'm not saying it's definitely going to happen, but that's the type of things that I strive for."

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