Chris Paul and the Clippers will finally get the chance to duel against each other since their break-up in the offseason. This will be the second time in which the Rockets and Clippers face off although Paul had to miss out on the first meeting to heal from a left adductor strain. The Clippers came out with the victory on December 22 behind a career-night by Austin Rivers who scored 36 points that game which is now the second most in a game for Rivers’ career.
When asked about the upcoming matchup against his old team, Paul downplayed the game.
“I understand the game and all that stuff, but it’s not about me,” Paul said, as he sought to downplay his return. “It’s about us and doing what we came out here to do.”
Then when asked about his emotions entering the game, he seemed reluctant to relay his potential feelings.
“Being back,” Paul said, pausing, “um, it’s a little different. Obviously living here for a while and still having my home. …I don’t know. Fortunately we played against the Lakers here already once and I got a chance to see a lot of the people that work there at Staples Center. I don’t know. This is home. I’ll still come back when the season is over.”
When Paul was traded to the Clippers it seemed as if the Clippers gave the point guard away for a half-eaten bag of chips, lint, and paper clips. But once the season started, it was clear that was not the case and that the Clippers benefitted enough from the trade to stay within playoff contention. Even after Patrick Beverley’s season ending knee injury the Clippers have maintained a balance within the roster with the help of the other players a part of the trade such as Sam Dekker and Montrez Harrel who have been solid contributors and Lou Williams, the sixth-man-of-the-year candidate who is also the Clippers’ leading scorer this season.
The Clippers didn’t necessarily lose the trade, but they certainly didn’t win. Paul has helped boost the Rockets to a higher level competitively. A level that has people wondering if they can actually take down the defending champions Golden State Warriors if they meet in playoffs. Paul has missed 17 games this season although the Rockets are 20-4 with Paul in the lineup.
The Rockets currently sit at second place in the West with a 30-11 win-loss record while the Clippers are just a half of a game behind the eighth seed Denver Nuggets in the West with a 21-21 record.
It’s obvious CP3 will always appreciate his time playing in LA and his love for the city that he calls home will never die. But that won’t deteriorate his competitive spirit towards the team that he spent the previous six seasons with. Paul is one of the more hard-working, competitive players in the league and as long as he’s on the court, it doesn’t matter who’s on the other team. It will be fun watching the floor general make the Clippers’ big men look silly on pick-and-roll switches and leading the Rockets to a blowout 120-98 victory.