To get a sense of how bad the Clippers have actually been, consider that they moved to Los Angeles from San Diego in 1984. In the 26 seasons before Chris arrived, the Clippers had a record of .500 or better only three times and made the playoffs four times. In Chris’ first two years, the Clippers had a 96-52 record and made two playoff appearances.
With their newfound respectability, the Clippers lured Doc Rivers, one of the premier coaches in the league, to Los Angeles before the current season. Not many coaches or players would have left the storied Boston Celtics to coach the Clippers. Rivers had won a championship with the Celtics in 2008. Then again, the Clippers never had a player of Chris’ caliber. Rivers knows that because he played for the Clippers during the 1991-92 season.
“I came from the days you had to wake up every morning and call the team trainer to find out where we were practicing, and half the time he didn’t have the answer,” says Rivers, who also serves as the team’s senior vice president of basketball operations. “You’d call back in a half-hour, and he was still looking. Now we have a facility that’s as good as any in the league. We have chefs in the morning. We have chiropractors and nutritionists.”
And they have a loquacious leader in Chris, a two-time Olympic gold medalist who doesn’t hesitate to encourage his teammates to push themselves.
“You have to be careful with that because you can be so competitive that you can come off wrong to your teammates,” Rivers says. “You can be too hard on them sometimes. We want him to always tell the truth, but we want to help him as much as we can. The good thing about him is that he talks.”
Chris always has, even as a youth. “He was very bossy, always wanting to tell people what to do — and that had nothing to do with sports,” says his older brother CJ, who now serves as Chris’ manager. “We shared a room for a long time. He used to try to get me to clean the room instead of him helping.”
Really? The guy who led the league in assists in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and is on track to do so again didn’t lend a hand? Don’t let State Farm find out. The insurance company touts Chris’ and his fictional, separated-at-birth twin brother Cliff Paul’s assist skills in a national television campaign. Chris’ only sibling in real life is CJ, two years his senior. Their father, Charles, coached both in football and basketball. Not surprisingly, Chris played quarterback and middle linebacker, the signal-caller positions on offense and defense.