The Clippers pulled off one of several blockbuster trades in a wild NBA summer when they dealt Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, but it was Paul who wanted out of Los Angeles, not the other way around. And in an appearance on ESPN’s The Hoop Collective podcast with Kevin Arnovitz, head coach Doc Rivers admitted “there were a lot of reasons” why one of the best point guards in NBA history was ready to move on.
“I think he was tired of hearing my voice,” Rivers said. “I think Chris is a guy who is very opinionated, wants to be coached 'kind of,' if you know what I'm saying, but wants a partnership as well. And it's tough from a coaching perspective. You gotta have a partnership but at times, you've gotta make the call. I thought that bothered him.”
Rivers also said that while relationship between the Clippers’ Big 3 of Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan was much better last season, it still wasn’t good enough to compete for a title.
“I thought the relationships — Blake, DJ, Chris — I thought they were better this past year but it was never great,” he said. “Their dynamic, it just didn’t work. That’s the bottom line.
“Even though I thought their relationship was much better last year, I really did, I still didn’t think it was a championship relationship. And until you have that, it’s hard to win.”
This makes sense
Chris Paul is a bulldog. He’s an incredible floor general who’s found incredible levels of success as a pick-and-roll maestro for the Hornets and the Clippers. But even with a formula that seemed destined for success — a quarterback at point guard with two wide receivers in the front court and shooters to flank — things just didn’t pan out in Los Angeles.
Remember when Jordan was basically a Dallas Maverick before the Clippers sent the kitchen sink to Texas in an emoji race to stop him from bolting town? That was all because DJ and CP3’s relationship had reportedly devolved beyond repair, and it was Paul’s domineering personality that nearly sent the big man packing.
But it was Rivers the general manager who assembled that team, so some blame should fall on him, as well.
Now, we see how both work away from each other.
The Clippers are in Stage 2 of their Lob City life cycle now with Milos Teodosic and Patrick Beverley sharing point guard duties. Add Danilo Galinari, and Los Angeles is a team that should hold onto a playoff seed in an even tougher Western Conference. If it doesn’t, Rivers could become the topic of conversation next summer.
As for Paul, well, he has to mesh with James Harden in Houston in order for the Rockets to be more of a success than last season’s disappointing second-round exit. But even though two dominant ball-handlers could pose a problem on a court with just one ball, Harden says it’s only a matter of communication.
“Later this season, when we're yelling at each other on the court, it's not because I'm mad at him or don't like him, it's because we're having honest communication,” he said to ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan.
The same goes for Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, who probably saw Paul’s communication issues in Los Angeles from afar: “It’s a matter of getting all the problems out front,” he said.
Both the Clippers and Rockets have interesting scenarios on their hands, but just like any relationship, communication could be the end-all, be-all for both teams.