The Oklahoma City Thunder will take on the Los Angeles Clippers in what will be an otherwise relatively meaningless regular-season game on Monday night, but Chris Paul’s return to Los Angeles makes this a bit more intriguing.
Of course, it’s not like Paul hasn’t been back in LA before. He was traded from the Clippers to the Houston Rockets during the summer of 2017, so he has made more than one trip to Los Angeles since then. (Who could forget the locker room hullabaloo from 2018?)
But now that the dust has settled, it’s time to look back on Paul’s legacy as a Clipper.
Obviously, CP3 is no longer the elite floor general he once was, which is why the Rockets couldn’t wait to dump him and his albatross contract this past summer.
However, there was a time when Paul was one of the baddest men in the NBA, an undeniable top-10 player and also the best point guard in the game before Stephen Curry hit his peak.
Paul arrived in LA ahead of the lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets. You know, just after his trade to the other LA team was vetoed.
He ended up spending six seasons with the Clippers, earning All-Star selections every year. Sure, injuries marred his tenure, but when he was on the floor, Paul was unquestionably a dynamic force. Along with Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, he helped comprise one of the NBA’s most exciting trios.
Notice I didn’t say “best,” because it didn’t really turn out that way.
Year after year, the Clippers fell short in the playoffs. They never made it past the second round, and the one year they did seem primed to make the Western Conference Finals, they blew a 3-1 series lead to the same Houston team that Paul would eventually join.
The triumvirate of Paul, Griffin and Jordan was just never quite good enough, and even in its best season in 2015 (when it lost to the Rockets), it took advantage of a hobbled San Antonio Spurs team in a thrilling seven-game first-round series, a series that Los Angeles almost certainly would not have won had the Spurs been healthy.
While Paul put the Clippers back on the map (or on the map at all) as an NBA franchise, his legacy with the club is somewhat incomplete.
No conference finals appearances in six years? That’s rough, even in a stacked West.
Paul will likely be remembered fondly by most Clippers fans. After all, the team was the butt of almost every joke before his arrival, and one day, his No. 3 jersey may very well hang in the rafters.
But when people talk about Chris Paul, his lack of playoff success always enters the discussion, whether that be fair or not.
Paul was outstanding in Los Angeles. He was an elite player, an offensive maestro and a guy who could make the players around him better. But his inability to ever lead the Clippers past the second round will always linger and will forever be a detriment to his overall LA legacy.