LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul's NBA résumé is highlighted with several elite individual accomplishments. But that didn't stop new Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers from letting his star point guard know in their first face-to-face meeting that he's lacking one major prize.
An NBA championship.
"As professional athletes, you always want someone to push you and motivate you," Paul said. "The first meeting I had with Doc, he pretty much told me I wasn't anything. He told me I hadn't done anything in this league, and he was right. You don't always want somebody that's going to tell you what you want to hear."
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Paul also knows that he might have his best opportunity this season to win that elusive title. Especially with Rivers as his new coach.
All-Star forward Blake Griffin is completely healthy entering this season for the first time in his career. The Clippers added guards J.J. Redick and Darren Collison and forwards Jared Dudley and Antawn Jamison. Center DeAndre Jordan and Sixth Man of the Year candidate guard Jamal Crawford are back.
Rivers said he believes the Clippers can win a title.
"It's realistic for some [teams]," he said, "and I believe we are in that some."
The relationship between Paul and Rivers is key if the Clippers are to raise their first championship banner. Rivers has a long history of coaching marquee players like Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Grant Hill, Tracy McGrady and Shaquille O'Neal. He also has a reputation of being a player's coach. Still, Paul knows Rivers is far from a pushover. In Boston, Rivers butted heads with Rondo.
"I have coached a lot [of stars]," Rivers said. "I even coached Patrick Ewing, if you can believe that, and he was a teammate of mine. They're different and they should be. They're all great players.
"I don't subscribe to the theory that they should all be treated the same. I think everyone is treated fairly, and that's how I try to coach."
Said Paul: "One thing I learned about Doc is he is going to expect you to do certain things. He's not going to baby us. He is going to treat us like men and he is going to give us that opportunity."
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Paul is excited that Rivers said he is going to "let him roll" minutes-wise this season. Paul played a career-low 33.2 minutes per game and averaged 16.9 points – under coach Vinny Del Negro last season – nearly three points less than the previous season.
"He's an All-Star and a genius," Rivers said of Paul. "I'm dumb enough or smart enough to know not to get in the way of that. We can help him, too. We want to make things easier for him, especially in transition offensively. Defensively, I know I can help him. We can do some things differently.
"But you never want to get in the way of guys and what they do. We don't want to get in the way of that. You want to give him as much freedom as possible and you want him to be able to be great and allow everyone else to be great at the same time."
The Clippers also know that if they want to contend for a championship, Paul and Rivers will have to lead them together.
"I'm excited about the future," Paul said.