After two successful years with the team, the idea that Paul was going to stick around was far from a foregone conclusion.
The first problem was the coach. He was clearly not getting along with Vinny Del Negro, and things only got worse after Del Negro was fired by the organization. Paul was blamed for the decision, which caused him to be upset at the team.
Then everything changed when the Clippers finally completed the trade to acquire Rivers as the new head coach, sending only a 2015 first-round pick in return.
Based on the connection between the coach and superstar, this appears to be enough to keep Paul in Los Angeles. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register points out that the two have a solid relationship:
ESPN's Marc Stein even hears that Paul returning is an almost certainty:
If this ends up being the case, this was as big of a contribution as one could hope for from Rivers to start his career with his new team.
The Clippers finished fourth in the Western Conference this season with a 56-26 record. The year before, the squad also had over a .600 winning percentage, which is a far cry from the 32-50 record that the team had immediately prior to Paul joining the team.
Even with a host of young and talented players on the roster, the point guard is clearly the reason the team has been so successful. Paul finished second in the NBA with an average of 9.7 assists per game to go with his 16.9 points per game.
He makes everyone on the roster better and is usually the person the team looks to when it needs a big basket. While Eric Bledsoe has been solid as a backup over the past few years, there is no question that the team would suffer dramatically if Paul were to sign somewhere else this summer.
By keeping the best player with the organization, Rivers will have already lived up to his price of a first-round draft pick.
Of course, fans should still expect him to make an impact on the court. As ESPN Stats and Info points out, he will be an upgrade over Del Negro when the postseason comes around:
Still, his biggest task will be accomplished as soon as Paul signs with the club. Anything else that Rivers provides will simply be bonus for the Clippers.
If everything goes right, Los Angeles could soon be celebrating its first championship in franchise history.
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