Chris Paul is a maestro at the point. He’s the conductor not only keeping the beat but also bringing out the right parts at the right time. Yes, he can score when needed, get steal, put up some gaudy numbers, but that’s not what makes him special. Rather it’s his ability to see the game, to probe a defense then exploit a weakness that makes him better than anyone at his position right now.
He was used to doing that with the ball in his hands — and when you have Chris Paul you put the ball in his hands. Most coaches would.
Doc Rivers came in and told him to give it up more.
It took a while but now Chris Paul is, and with that the Clippers have moved a step closer to title contender status.
Kate Fagen detailed the relationship between CP3 and Rivers, and how it impacted the Clippers, in a must-read piece for ESPN The Magazine.
Under Del Negro, the Clippers leaned heavily on Paul and Griffin, especially at the end of games and in the playoffs, when the long grind of a back-and-forth series demands superior half-court execution. In these key moments, Del Negro would inevitably run an isolation play for one of his stars. Just as frequently, the defense would send a double-team, and because iso plays aren’t usually designed with strong second and third options, the Clippers would find themselves exposed like a king on a chessboard — desperate and surrounded, looking for an escape route that often didn’t exist.
“I think Chris realized last year in the playoffs, holding the ball, getting double-teamed, getting down to late shot clocks every time, you’re not going to win that way,” Rivers says. “Movement, quick decisions, pulling it and swinging it and trusting the pass — that makes Chris impossible to guard. And I think he realizes it now….
Or, as Rivers puts it, “We’re trying to get Chris to see, and I don’t think it’s anything we had to talk him into, that having the ball in his hands is never a bad thing, but when the ball touches everyone’s hands, it’s a great thing.”
Great not good, that’s the Spurs mantra under Gregg Popovich and it’s the vision Rivers is trying to bring to the Clippers.
Since returning from injury and seeing Blake Griffin step up in that time Paul seems to be buying in more. He saw how the team played without him and one of the smartest players in the game saw how he could fit in that and make it better.
If Paul is playing like this, if he is moving the ball, it is one of the three big keys to make the Clippers legitimate contenders (along with smart defense from DeAndre Jordan and a healthy bench unit).
And if he needs to at some point, he can keep the ball in his hands for a play and create. He just needs to pick his spots with that now.