His brilliance is almost a given, Chris Paul running the NBA’s most efficient offense while continually flustering All-Star counterparts on defense.
So why are Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook and Golden State’s Stephen Curry among the players generating considerably more buzz for most valuable player than the Clippers point guard who largely shut them down over the last week?
Leave it to Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick, who has a degree in history from Duke, to give a reasoned opinion on the topic.
“Chris is having an unbelievable season,” Redick said Wednesday night after the Clippers’ 120-108 victory at Oklahoma City. “But when someone does something so well for such a long period of time, you almost take it for granted, and I think that’s been the case a little bit this year.”
Among the MVP front-runners, Westbrook has been a triple-double machine, Curry an otherworldly shooter and Houston’s James Harden the league’s leading scorer. But a compelling case could be made for Paul as well.
Paul leads the NBA with 10.1 assists a game, is a deadly mid-range jump shooter and has a 4.25 assist-to-turnover ratio, making him the most sure-handed guard in the league. He is also the only player averaging 18.0 points, 10.0 assists, 4.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals a game.
It was also notable how Paul outplayed Westbrook only two nights after gutting out a victory over Minnesota with a sore right knee that he acknowledged was more serious than he initially let on.
“I probably had no business out there Monday,” Paul said of his two-point, 15-assist performance against the Timberwolves.
He had full ownership of things Wednesday, getting 33 points and nine assists while holding Westbrook to seven of his 24 points and two-for-eight shooting in situations where Paul defended him. Westbrook also finished the game with 10 turnovers, twice Paul’s total.
“He’s arguably the best all-around point guard in the game,” Clippers forward Matt Barnes said of Paul. “He can score when he needs to score, he can obviously pass the ball, he plays defense and he gets in there and gets steals and rebounds for us. He’s tough.”
One of the best indicators of Paul’s value is the Clippers having won nine of 14 games since All-Star forward Blake Griffin was sidelined by surgery to remove a staph infection from his right elbow. Griffin is expected to miss a 15th game Friday against Dallas but could return Sunday against Houston at Staples Center.
Paul admitted his standing in the MVP race mattered to him earlier in his career, but the 10-year veteran has since moved on to greater ambitions.
“I just need to win a championship,” he said.
And furthermore …
Another thing that makes Paul indispensable is teams loading up on him defensively, which provides open shots for the Clippers’ wing players.
Redick and Barnes capitalized against the Thunder, combining to score 47 points while making nine of 13 three-pointers. Redick has scored at least 18 points in five consecutive games, largely offsetting the loss of Griffin’s offensive production.
“I’m playing minutes and getting good shots,” Redick said. "[Coach] Doc [Rivers] runs good stuff, playing with Chris is easy. There’s not a whole lot to it. I move a lot, probably that would be the other thing, I’m just working off the ball.”
Redick has made 148 three-pointers, putting him on pace to break the season franchise record of 161 set by Jamal Crawford last season. Rivers described Redick as an offense in himself because of his constant movement without the ball.
“It gives us extra offense, that movement,” Rivers said. “It’s exhausting. You could see they tried to put Westbrook on him for a while, and … nobody wants to chase that guy around the floor all night.”
CLIPPERS AT DALLAS
When: 5:30 p.m. PDT.
Where: AmericanAirlines Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 42-23; Mavericks 41-25.
Record vs. Mavericks: 2-0.
Update: Things have taken a bizarre turn since Amare Stoudemire joined Dallas last month, the veteran forward sharply criticizing his new team Tuesday while wearing sunglasses inside the locker room and what looked like a Cap’n Crunch jacket. Stoudemire called the Mavericks’ performance during a 127-94 loss to Cleveland “unacceptable” and went on to say he “came here to win … we can’t screw around.” Dallas has gone 5-6 since Stoudemire’s arrival, including 4-4 in games Stoudemire has played, to fall into seventh place in the Western Conference standings.