Chris Paul controlled the ball for six seasons in a Clippers uniform. He pushed the tempo or slowed it down, as he saw fit. He took the big shots when time was short, or decided who else would. He directed almost everything his teammates did as the consummate floor leader.
There was no debating the regular-season results.
The Clippers won 50 games or more for five consecutive seasons with Paul as their point guard, and it probably would have been six in a row if not for the NBA lockout that shortened the 2011-12 season to 66 games, down from the standard 82.
Paul averaged 18.8 points on 47.5 percent shooting, plus 9.8 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 2.2 steals in 409 career games with the Clippers after six seasons with similar statistics in 425 games with the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets.
Paul is gone now, traded to the Houston Rockets in a blockbuster offseason deal that enabled the Clippers to overhaul their roster for a fresh start for 2017-18. His departure created new opportunities, but new questions, too, including the most obvious one:
How will the Clippers get along without him?
Certainly, their style of play must change.
Dramatically so, if everything goes as planned.
“It mandates a change in style, probably the style I’m more familiar with,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said when asked about changes in the wake of Paul’s departure. “I’ve always been a ball-movement coach. We can get back into that. I do want to play at a higher pace.
“Again, you go into camp and you look at your team and you’ll find the pace that want to play at. I think we should be an up-tempo team, an early-strike team. We should be a very physical team. (But) you have to get your team and see what you really have when you get to camp.”
Training camp started Tuesday at the University of Hawaii.
There will be new roles for new players, and for the old ones, as well.
Adapting won’t be all that difficult, according to guard Austin Rivers, the coach’s son.
“We’re just going to hoop,” he said.
In fact, there’s not likely to be a normal guard rotation. Austin Rivers might assume the shooting guard position, playing alongside Patrick Beverley at the point. Beverley was the key piece in the Paul trade, arriving with a gritty style of play the Clippers lacked.
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