LOS ANGELES — This could have been about Chris Paul. Really, it should have been about Chris Paul.
But that idea didn’t fly; in fact, just the opposite. If anyone was going to receive special attention on Wednesday, it was going to be everyone.
So when the Clippers held their news conference on Wednesday to announce their newly signed players, Paul sat in the back row, between Ryan Hollins and J.J. Redick. Just one of the guys.
He wanted it that way. The night before, Paul signed his five-year, $107.3-million free-agent contract at the same time new Clippers Redick, Jared Dudley and Darren Collison and holdovers Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins signed theirs.
Paul could have commanded all the attention, but he preferred to share it.
“I didn’t want that,” he said. “We all had to sign at the same time, so why not do a press conference together? There’s no one person who’s more important than the team, and I absolutely mean that.”
But there’s little question that Paul and new head coach Doc Rivers have the necessary pull to make the Clippers an attractive destination. Barnes wanted back in; Collison had a chance to be reunited with Paul, his former teammate with the New Orleans Hornets. Redick was happy for the trade that brought him to L.A. from the Milwaukee Bucks.
“Who would’ve thought, five or six years ago, that a Boston Celtics head coach would want to come to the Clippers, like that was his dream?” Redick asked. “It shows how far this franchise has come. The fact Chris didn’t really entertain anything (else) speaks volumes.”
Paul said he didn’t need much time to decide that L.A. was the place. He spoke about “unfinished business,” a reference to last season’s first-round exit from the playoffs, but it was really just a matter of speaking with his family — his wife Jada, his kids, his brother and his parents — to confirm what he already knew.
No drawn-out process, no visits with other teams, no mulling and hinting about his future.
“I didn’t feel like that would be fair,” Paul said. “I’m pretty aware of what could’ve happened or where you could go. I’m pretty knowledgeable about the situations. There was no need to put any of that stress on anybody, especially my family.
“Once I knew, I felt like I should go ahead and notify the other teams. That way they could move forward and worry about who they were going to sign for the upcoming season.”
Paul didn’t recall the time or date when he decided he was coming back. He was sitting at home, he said, and he looked as his wife and asked her if she felt like they would stay. She said she did. And that was it.
It should always be like this, but it isn’t. Dwight Howard had the Lakers sitting on edge for weeks before finally walking away and choosing the Houston Rockets. Paul isn’t one to drag out the process. In high school, he made one visit to Wake Forest and signed.
“Why ask someone to pull out all the bells and whistles when I know where I want to be?” he said.
Now the Clippers have assembled a team of veterans with great possibilities. Redick and Dudley are accurate outside shooters. Collison will be one of the league’s best backup point guards. Barnes and Hollins are important role players.
“They’re a good fit, all of them,” Rivers said. “They know who they are, and they’re over themselves. They just want to win.”
But that’s going to take time, and everyone knows it. The Clippers set a franchise record with 56 regular-season wins and won their first Pacific Division title, but they didn’t get past the first round of the playoffs.
“Last year we were disappointed,” Hollins said. “This year, it’s all about results.”
But Wednesday, it seemed to be about unity. The Clippers didn’t place focus on Paul; they shared it. How often does that happen?
“This is probably one of the biggest days in the history of the franchise because of all of us doing this together,” Paul said. “It shows how unselfish everybody is.
“There could have been six different press conferences. That would’ve been tough, but I just think it shows what Doc and our front office are trying to do here, and that’s make it a family and build.”