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Doc Rivers: Chris Paul left because he wanted to play with James Harden

The fate of the L.A. Clippers franchise turned around in a whirl of seconds after Chris Paul announced his decision to join the Houston Rockets, leaving the team scrambling for a viable trade and a possible return for his services after spending six seasons with the organization.

For president/head coach Doc Rivers, it was much simpler that that.

“We met with him, but he didn’t tell us. We just met with him and then his agent told us,” said Rivers of his meeting with the perennial All-Star point guard, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated.

“Listen, it wasn’t like it was hard to figure it out… we met. We had a very good meeting overall. The main reason he left was because of [Rockets guard] James Harden. He went down the road with this team and it didn’t work. He wanted to try it with another team. Contractually, it was going to be close enough.”

The Clippers were the only team in line to offer him a max deal for his stay, but Paul (also the president of the National Basketball Players Association) opted into the last year of his contract upon a trade that sent half of Houston’s roster to L.A. — consequently being forced to sign players with out-of-pocket cash considerations.

“That was huge for us. But that was huge for him, too. It wasn’t like they were doing us a favor,” said Rivers. “One of the things that [Clippers executive vice president of basketball operations] Lawrence [Frank] said was that, ‘We were very light on our feet going into free agency.’ We knew exactly what was going to happen. We showed everybody the game plan. Other than getting [one other major trade] that would have taken us to a whole different level, we’ve gotten exactly what we wanted to get this summer.”

L.A. ended up getting Italian marksman Danilo Gallinari in a three-team trade with the Denver Nuggets and the Atlanta Hawks, bolstering their chances to compete this upcoming season.

“Losing Chris is tough, because he is a great player,” said Rivers. “But we have a lot of great players on our team that play so many different ways. That is why ‘Gallo’ is so important to us because our thought was that if you’re not going to run a point guard-dominated offense, then you got to run a movement offense with versatility. And I think we’ve accomplished that.”