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Chris Paul has Clippers thinking big, despite thumping by Spurs

The Clippers are road kill against San Antonio in their first game after the All-Star break. But the fact remains, Paul has turned the Clippers around and has them in the championship conversation.

February 21, 2013|T.J. Simers

I'm thinking the best place for Dwight Howard's statue outside Staples is right beside Oscar De La Hoya's 7-foot likeness.

That way they can keep the guys together who have been beaten up the most in the building.

De La Hoya was 0-1 in Staples and so Mitch Kupchak probably has it right: Dwight really doesn't need to do all that much to get his own.

But now what do they do if Chris Paul completes one of the greatest turnarounds in sports history and leads the Clippers to an NBA championship?

"I'm just happy I made it through the trading deadline," cracked Paul, as humble as he has been huge in making the Clippers relevant.

OK, so maybe the Clippers weren't prime-time TNT fare the way they played against the Spurs Thursday night. Actually, they were more road kill than NBA feel-good story, down by 28 after three quarters.

Some of the blame for the post-All Star malaise has to go to Paul, who isn't always aggressive on offense early. He took four shots in the first half, too slow to notice that his teammates didn't have it.

But still bound for the playoffs — and don't the Lakers wish they could be so certain? — Paul and the Clippers have something special brewing.

Blake Griffin has become basketball's answer to football's Peyton Manning when it comes to commercials. And in addition to pushing insurance as his twin brother Cliff, Paul will soon start hawking Untouchable cologne for Avon.

Now why a man would want to wear a cologne that makes him untouchable with the ladies, I don't know.

Paul has already taped commercial spots with his son, little Chris, which will be shown beginning Father's Day — potentially the date of Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

"I remember I had Michael Jordan stuff when I was a kid," said Paul. "I thought if I smelled like him I might play like him."

He might not be Jordan, but he's such a force, if Commissioner David Stern hadn't stopped him from being traded to the Lakers, folks might be talking today about how smart Jim Buss was in acquiring him.

How many lives have been changed because he's not with the Lakers and instead playing like he loves the Clippers?

Like Howard, who will be free to play anywhere when the season ends, Paul will make more money if he stays with the team currently employing him.'s Adrian Wojnarowski recently reported inaccurately that Paul is "planning to re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, punctuating his pick-and-roll partnership with Griffin with a maximum contract extension and final say about every move their franchise now makes."

It sounds good to the Clippers, and might happen. And DeAndre Jordan still might become a force at center for the Clippers.

But Paul said, "No, I haven't decided what I am going to do next season, and no, I haven't told anyone what I'm going to do."

It's a good guess Paul will return. And too often that's journalism today. You know that if you were following all the reports from sources that had players being traded by the NBA deadline.

Now maybe the day is coming when Paul will have the final say in every move the Clippers make, possibly beginning with Coach Vinny Del Negro's future with the team.

But Paul passed on the opportunity to vote thumbs up or down on talking with Boston about Kevin Garnett, preferring to remain the team's starting point guard rather than its personnel director.

"I like what we have going on here," he said. "And the most exciting thing, the thing that makes me the happiest is Chauncey [Billups] is back and going through this with us."

The Clippers didn't have Billups a year ago when they were swept out of the playoffs by the Spurs, but San Antonio didn't seem unnerved by his return.

The Spurs have the best record in the West, and it's easy to understand why after they reminded everyone what it was like to go to a Clippers game before Paul arrived.

Five of the Clippers next seven games come against teams with winning records, one blowout no big deal as long as there is no carryover.

As it is, folks now expect more out of the Clippers, a statue of one of their players outside Staples no longer such a farfetched idea.

But it's going to take more than a 1-for-6 shooting performance from Paul over three quarters.

I would have told him so, too, knowing how much he likes to be challenged. But that would have meant staying to the very end of Thursday's debacle, and I can take only so much after watching as many Lakers games as I have this season.

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