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Rockets' Chris Paul downplays return to L.A. to play Clippers

Rockets' Chris Paul downplays return to L.A. to play Clippers
Chris Paul and the Rockets enter Monday's game against the Clippers with the best record in the NBA at 35-9. (Rob Carr / Getty Images)

At times, Chris Paul fidgeted while being asked by the media to share his feelings about facing the Clippers in Los Angeles for the first time since he requested a trade to the Houston Rockets last June.

At times, Paul smiled while being queried about growing tired of playing for the Clippers and instead wanting to take his chances of winning an NBA championship with the Rockets.

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As he addressed questions before the Rockets practiced on the campus of UCLA on Sunday, Paul seemed at ease with his decision to join forces with James Harden, coach Mike D'Antoni and the rest of Houston's cast rather than continue with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, coach Doc Rivers and the rest of the Clippers.

In what was his typical way of dealing with touchy subjects during his six years with the Clippers, Paul didn't provide much insight on why he so badly wanted to depart L.A. and how strained the relations became with that group.

"I understand the game and all that stuff, but it's not about me," Paul said, as he sought to downplay his return. "It's about us and doing what we came out here to do."

Paul was injured and didn't play iwhen the Clippers beat the Rockets in Houston last month. He will play in this one and was asked about his emotions facing the Clippers in L.A.

"Being back," Paul said, pausing, "um, it's a little different. Obviously living here for a while and still having my home. …I don't know. Fortunately we played against the Lakers here already once and I got a chance to see a lot of the people that work there at Staples Center. I don't know. This is home. I'll still come back when the season is over."

Paul said he still talks to Jordan, Wesley Johnson, Clippers assistant coach Sam Cassell and Jasen Powell, the team's head athletic trainer.

Paul even said he has enjoyed his conversations with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer.

Paul, though, did not discuss any riffs he had with Griffin or Rivers.

"It don't matter. It doesn't matter now," Paul said, his voice rising. "All that stuff is in the past. I'm so glad to be in a space now where I am where I am and I'm excited.

"That's so long ago now, I don't know. It was a while ago, but when it happened, it was time. They seem to be doing well and I'm trying to do the same."

After Paul was traded, he had dinner with Ballmer at the owner's request. The two had forged a bond and agreed it wasn't going to be broken after the trade.

"Steve is a great guy, still somebody I have the utmost respect for," Paul said. "So, when he wants to talk … he wants to talk now. … What I always talk about, communication? That's the way you get things better."

During his six years with the Clippers, there were high expectations and the team was often considered a championship contender.

But they never got past the second round of the playoffs, going out in the first round in their last two postseason appearances.

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"We didn't win it all. That was the point," Paul said. "I'm happy with the times that I had. I had a chance to grow here. … It was a lot of great times here, and I still wish them the best — Ballmer and the guys."

UP NEXT

VS. HOUSTON

When: Monday, 7:30 p.m., Staples Center.

On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.

Update: The Clippers have listed Jordan as questionable because of a sprained left ankle. The Clippers are seeking their first five-game winning streak of the season and to be over .500 for the first time since they were 5-4 on Nov. 5. Rockets All-Star guard James Harden is out with a hamstring injury.

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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