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NBA AM: The Chris Paul Relationship Was Complicated

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It’s Complicated

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Clippers agreed to send star guard Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets in exchange for guards Patrick Beverly and Luo Williams, along with Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, the non-guaranteed contracts of DeAndre Liggins, Darren Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, a top three protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations

By now, you have likely heard a dozen reasons why Paul is no longer a Clipper: They wouldn’t offer the guaranteed fifth contract year. Paul had lost faith in Doc Rivers. Paul didn’t want to play with DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin. Paul didn’t want to play with Austin Rivers.

While there may be a shred of truth to all of these, the real reason Paul is out with the Clippers is he did not feel like he could win there.

Paul met with the Clippers earlier in the week and listened to their pitch and their plan for the future. Afterward, Paul informed the team that he was either opting out and walking to Houston as a free agent or he would opt-in, only if they agreed to trade him to Houston.

It was a blow for sure, mainly because the Clippers were prepared to bring Paul back. They would have done the fifth year if Paul really made that the sticking point, but in the end, after six years of not being able to compete and an environment that was less than ideal in Paul’s mind, a change was needed.

While there is plenty of blame to go around as to why the Clippers kept falling short, plenty of blame lands on Paul.

It’s no big secret that Paul can be tough to play with. What has made him so special as a player is how he can command and control his teammates. He can climb into them and get the results he wants, but at the end of the day, as he has gotten older and less impactful, his “my way” mindset had begun to rub teammates the wrong way. That’s never been a big secret. The often talked about rift between Paul and Griffin is nothing new. Griffin had grown to have a problem with the double standard Paul had for his teammates but not for himself.

It was a complicated relationship for sure. However, it was one the Clippers hoped to keep together even beyond Paul’s prime. With that ship now sailed, the Clippers intend to offer Griffin a full max contract and build the future around he and Jordan.

The incoming players will infuse the roster with depth and options, something the Clippers likely were not going to have with Paul in tow. There was also a sense that if Griffin does as many expect he will and re-sign, that a weight will come off the situation. The Clippers have long struggled to make their “big three” work consistently. Now, that no longer seems to be a problem.

The Clippers have won 51, 53, 56 and 57 games respectively over the last four seasons. Cracking the 50-win mark without Paul may be harder, but it does seem it might be less stressful, organizationally. All they need is for one of the new guys to break through a little and maybe it all works out for the best.

The Insiders Podcast

Basketball Insiders’ publisher Steve Kyler and Senior NBA Writer Michael Scotto look back at the 2017 NBA Draft and look ahead to NBA Free Agency including Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday and more.

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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.