He was booed at Dodger Stadium and two days later wasn’t even the most fawned over Paul in his own building.
Whoever cued up the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” inside Staples Center on Sunday might as well have been playing an ode to Chris Paul.
The song was intended as a tribute to Paul McCartney, who rose from his seat across from the Clippers’ bench in the first quarter of their 120-97 victory over the Lakers and obligingly danced when shown on the scoreboard.
But there was certainly an undercurrent of truth to the words as they relate to the point guard, who somehow still irks giant swaths of a city simply because he plays for the Clippers instead of its beloved Lakers.
This is lunacy. This is unnecessary. This is so December 2011.
Angelenos should forget about the past and celebrate the greatness of the one star most likely to bring an NBA championship to the city over the next two years.
Erase the name “David Stern” and the phrase “basketball reasons” from your memory bank. Grab a stack of oversized Cliff Paul heads from the State Farm commercials and hold them over your heads while marching down Santa Monica Boulevard. Move on.
For some reason, it still isn’t happening.
“I thought the city would have embraced him,” Clippers forward Blake Griffin said of Paul. “I mean, it seems like everywhere we go, people love Chris. I don’t know why he would get booed at a Dodger game.”
Paul said he understood being the victim of the Untrue Blue. Fans booed him at the Dodgers’ game against the San Francisco Giants on Friday, he said, because L.A. remains a Lakers town. Sadly, even being shown on the Dodger Stadium video board alongside Dodgers outfielder Carl Crawford couldn’t protect him from the scorn of a sellout crowd.
Clippers center Ryan Hollins, a Pasadena native who played for UCLA and knows the L.A. fan mentality as well as anyone in the NBA, shook his head when asked about the fans’ treatment of his teammate.
“When he was about to be a Laker, the town was going crazy,” Hollins said, referring to the proposed trade that Commissioner Stern nixed on the eve of the 2011-12 season. “That he isn’t and is playing for the Clippers, I think there’s just a jealousy, a love-hate thing, so that just shows the respect he has as a player.”
It’s easy to get the feeling Paul could help the Clippers win their first title and it wouldn’t change anything. Actually, it might exacerbate the hatred.
Of course, the Clippers would love to have that problem. Paul continues to make it a realistic possibility by playing the way he did Sunday, when he needed only three quarters to score 23 points on eight-for-10 shooting. He made all four of his three-pointers and had six assists, four rebounds and three steals.
He repeatedly left the Lakers discombobulated, including one sequence in the second quarter when he came around a screen from DeAndre Jordan, dribbled across the court and pulled up for a jumper without a defender within 10 feet of him.
“There’s not a whole lot of defense against him,” said Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni, who immediately called a timeout.
In the third quarter, Paul caused the Lakers’ Jodie Meeks to fall down after using a behind-the-back crossover dribble.
The confusion carried over to the scoreboard operator a few minutes later. Oddly, Lakers star Kobe Bryant’s likeness was shown on a couple of fan T-shirts, prompting boos from a designated Clippers home crowd.
At least those boos were warranted, unlike the ones from what should have been an adoring Dodgers crowd two days earlier.
“That doesn’t really make sense to me,” Griffin said when asked about the baseball fans’ reaction to Paul. “I feel like you would have to ask the city, not me.”
OK, here goes: What were you thinking?