Doc Rivers on the Chris Paul, Rockets trade that brought Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley, and Montrezl Harrell to Clippers
PLAYA VISTA – Nearly two years ago, the L.A. Clippers and Houston Rockets completed the blockbuster Chris Paul trade. Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and Montrezl Harrell were sent to Los Angeles and Paul was sent to Houston in the blockbuster deal.
At the time, many figured that the Rockets won the deal getting a future Hall-of-Famer and a partner for James Harden’s NBA Championship. The Clippers, who wanted to retain Paul, went for the next best option, getting good, serviceable assets back for Paul.
Looking back at it now, it’s pretty easy to say that both teams won the trade. The Rockets needed to maximize Harden’s prime and the Clippers looked to avoid the traditional rebuild by retooling their still talented roster.
In Game 5 of their Western Conference first round series against the Golden State Warriors, Lou Williams put up 33 points, four rebounds, and 10 assists. Montrezl Harrell also added 24 pts, five rebounds, two assists off the bench.
Together, the trio put on the performance of a lifetime, which brought back mentions of the Paul trade from a few years ago.
“We didn’t want to at the time, we wanted Chris back,” head coach Doc Rivers recalled. “Once we knew Chris was leaving, our next step was what can we get out of it? What we got out of it turned out to be tremendous.
“We got Trez and Lou – and you could stop there. Turned out to be, for us, terrific, but for them too. It was one of the trades where we clearly needed the change, we were kind of stuck in our identity and it was pretty sure we weren’t going anywhere. Once CP decided he was leaving, I thought the next best thing was to see what we could get, and what we ended up with was very good.”
Beverley provided the much-needed energy and intensity in Game 5 as well, finishing with 17 points, 14 rebounds, and four assists. He was coming off a career year with the Rockets at the time of the trade (9.5 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.2 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1.6 three-pointers per game on 42 percent shooting from the field and 38.2 percent from beyond the arc). He was a guy the Clippers essentially demanded to be included in the package.
“Pat was definitely one of the asks, for sure,” added Rivers. “We actually asked them for more, you don’t even want to know what we asked for. Trez, back at the time… We didn’t know he was gonna be that good. We knew Lou was gonna score. I knew we were losing Jamal, and I felt like now we got a Lou, we kind we kind of replaced [him]. And Pat, we knew what we were getting as far as his toughness.”
Beverley summed it up best during his introductory press conference in Los Angeles.
“I’m going to go ahead and get this out of the way because I know I’m going to be asked this a lot this year,” Beverley said back in July 2017. “I am not Chris Paul. I reiterate: I am not Chris Paul. In saying that, he’s not me either. So we’ll leave it right there.”
Rivers said the biggest wild card for the Clippers at the time was the acquisition of Harrell. The big man averaged 9.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.1 assists during his second year with the Rockets backing up Clint Capela. Still, no one knew if Harrell could play starter minutes. According to NBA.com/stats, 258 of Harrell’s 345 total field goal attempts that season came in the restricted area alone, and he shot just 39 percent outside of the restricted area (34-of-87).
“We just didn’t know what we were getting with Trez,” Rivers admitted. “We liked that he played hard and literally stopped there.”
To the surprise of the Clippers coaching staff, Harrell was able to score and score at will, when given the opportunity. Rivers recalled a conversation he had with some of his coaches during training camp as Harrell was on the rise.
“In training camp, literally in training camp, first year… I remember our coaches, on the third day, I said, ‘Is it Lou, or can Trez score?’ And I remember our guys, said, ‘He’s never scored.’ Everybody kind of rolled their eyes and I said, ‘I swear, I think he can score.’ And one of our coaches hilariously said, ‘On us.’ But we don’t know if he can score on an NBA team, and I was like, ‘Well, that’s a hell of a statement.’
“And then, through training camp, through preseason, he kept scoring on rolls, on handoffs and stuff like that — the post game was at the end of last year, and now that’s what changed. Before it was all rolls and hedges, now it’s post-ups.”
The 1-2 chemistry and combination that he and Williams have has been on full display this series. There’s a reason Harrell’s best games in the series have also coincided with Williams’ best games as well.
Montrezl Harrell, Games 1-5 (per Basketball Reference)
Lou Williams, Games 1-5 (per Basketball Reference)
“For me, it’s personal with Trez,” said Williams about his relationship with Harrell. “I developed a relationship with Trez before we were even teammates. It’s just funny how things kind of match up like that. Trez has been in Atlanta the past three or four summers with me. We met on a whim, so it’s been personal.
“It’s been a great thing just for me to watch how he’s grown over the years. And this year he’s really became one of the best bigs on our team, in the Western Conference. And the work shows. For me, it’s tremendously great.”
The trio of Williams, Harrell, and Beverley aren’t even looking back on the trade.
“We don’t even pay that no attention,” Harrell said after Game 5. “We don’t look back at it. We don’t sit back, talk about it, like, wow, we was actually traded for Chris Paul. He is what he is and we are what we are.”
What Harrell and Williams are is the best scoring bench duo in NBA history. Factor in Patrick Beverley, and the Clippers got their version of a haul: no superstars, by definition, but guys who are stars in their own roles.
Williams and Harrell will continue to be the focal point of the Clippers offense, especially in the second unit. They’ll only go as far as they can take them; we’ll see if that’ll be back to Oakland for a Game 7 on Sunday night.