first_imgOh, it’s a different franchise. The seats are all sold. The old reptilian owner is gone, with no more mentions of V. Stiviano, and the new over-caffeinated owner is discussing a new arena.A quarter-century of pantomime was replaced by six years of winning, peaking with Paul’s Game 7 shot that eliminated San Antonio in the first round in 2015. The Clippers spent all those years amusing their fans with Cubs-caliber incompetence. With Paul, they just broke hearts. They did so again when they dealt Paul to Houston on Wednesday. They received a first-round pick in 2018 and a Kellogg’s Variety Pack of bodies.Some will be helpful. Patrick Beverley, with Paul a first-team All-Defense guard, will become the most popular player on the club. He plays for keeps.Sam Dekker, at 6-foot-8, returns to the Staples Center floor where he shot Arizona out of the West Regional final, while he played for Wisconsin. He might become the small forward the Clippers have craved. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error But a trade is defined by who gets the best player, and the Clippers would never get equal value for Paul, not at 32. They couldn’t give him a max contract that would take him into obsolescence. All this is a pretext for future moves: keeping Blake Griffin, gathering up enough coupons to get someone like Paul George. And then, of course, trying to become the next team of LeBron James’ lifelong dreams.Michael Eaves, who traveled with the Clippers while at Fox Sports and now works for ESPN, said this trade went far beyond economics. Paul was miffed at Coach Doc Rivers, Eaves reported, because he felt Doc was giving preferential treatment to his son Austin, who defers to nobody.Eaves said Paul was incensed when Doc Rivers, who has (or had) total control over Clippers’ personnel, nixed a trade that would have brought the Knicks’ Camelo Anthony west and sent Austin Rivers east.Eaves also said Paul is following a scenario that will unite him with James and send them together somewhere in 2018-19, in the manner of Garnett-Pierce-Allen to the Celtics in 2008.And you thought you could only mix and match teams on Playstation.Paul has a drill sergeant’s reputation on the court and in practice. But Griffin has had chances to leave and didn’t, and DeAndre Jordan re-signed with the Clippers, after some heavy drama. Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson were demanding, too. Certainly the Clippers weren’t having as much fun as the Warriors, but who did?In the traditional sense Paul is the best two-way point guard in the league, even now. How he and Harden split the load in Houston will be Mike D’Antoni’s job. Harden got jobbed out of the MVP for the second time in three years. He didn’t quite average a triple-double, but he took Houston to the No. 3 seed in the West, and he made Eric Gordon the Sixth Man of the Year and he pumped up Clint Capela’s stat line. He was also far more efficient than Russell Westbrook, and he did all that as the point guard. That’s the only position Paul knows.With Paul, the Clippers played .658 basketball for six seasons. But they won only three playoff series and never reached a conference final. They had every chance in 2014 and 2015, throwing away a last-minute Game 5 lead in Oklahoma City that would have given them a 3-2 series edge, absolutely disappearing in a Game 6 loss at home to Houston.The fates gave the Clippers those two chances and then went back to stealing their identity. Paul and Griffin got hurt in the first round in 2016, Griffin got hurt in the first round this year.The Clippers rampaged through the league last November, as the ball moved freely without Paul’s constant custody. Then it went south, as it always did.It was fun and it was loud, but it wasn’t long enough to be an era, and it wasn’t rich enough to be a run. Chris Paul’s arrival left the Clippers unfulfilled and the Lakers unrecognizable. Those two wrongs didn’t make a right.center_img They shouldn’t have had Chris Paul in the first place.On Wednesday the Clippers donated him to Houston, their trophy case remarkably undisturbed.You know how NBA players say “the ball don’t lie” when the guy they didn’t really foul misses a foul shot. It’s an expression popularized by Rasheed Wallace, among others. Well, in this case, the trade didn’t lie.Former commissioner David Stern dismantled the Lakers when he didn’t allow them to take Paul from New Orleans, on the vague premise of “basketball reasons.” The Clippers got CP3 but never took advantage, thanks to basketball reasons, too.last_img

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