Chris Paul

Rockets, you want to fight? Do it out there where we can watch

Rockets, you want to fight? Do it out there where we can watch

I love it when NBA teams actually show animosity between each other during a game. There's too much hugging and chatting between opponents for me these days.

So when the Clippers and Rockets showed some genuine hate toward each other yesterday during their game, I enjoyed it. But when I heard that Chris Paul led a trio of teammates into the threshold of the Los Angeles locker room after the game, I was astounded. Paul, after all, is the president of the NBA players' union. And he's pulling this thuggery on Martin Luther King Day?

It's been no secret that Paul and the Clippers' Blake Griffin did not get along during Paul's tenure in Los Angeles. And I've always heard that Paul is often not the best of teammates. And on the other side, Los Angeles' Austin Rivers has been seen as a player who is only there because his father, Doc, is the coach of the team. The perception is that the son takes advantage of the situation by being critical of his teammates under the protection of his father. Not in uniform for the game, the younger Rivers was apparently yapping from the bench throughout the contest.

This from Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times:

The incident was a reminder of something about Paul that bothered all of his teammates. Paul was never so much a team leader as a team instigator. He was tough to play with, and tougher to play with when you didn’t play his way. He was Kobe Bryant without the ability to finish. For all his greatness, he was the guy who would lose the game, then look for a back door to pick a fight.

I would expect the NBA to hit the Rockets with a very big fine. An excursion into the opponents' locker room after a game could be a very dangerous move -- although I would still say the number of NBA players ready to get into an actual fight is very small.

The whole thing reminds me of a time when my long-departed friend, local wrestling promoter Don Owen, was telling me about a couple of his workers squaring off in the locker room after a match. After all the scripted entertainment, these guys were ready to go at it for real.

Owen was ready, too. "I told them it would be fine to settle it that way but to hold on for a couple of minutes. Let me go out and announce a rematch and we'll put it in the ring where it belongs."

I feel the same way about these guys. If somebody really wants a piece of another player, do it out there on the big stage where everyone can see it.


This time, with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers beat Portland

This time, with Blake Griffin and Chris Paul, the Clippers beat Portland

It was intense, emotional and hotly contested, and in the end, it was a measure of revenge for the LA Clippers. 

Behind Blake Griffin's 27 points and 13 rebounds and another masterful court performance from Chris Paul (27 points, 5 assists), the Clippers beat the Blazers 114-106 on Thursday in a rematch of last season's first round playoff series. The two Clippers stars were injured and missed the final two games of the playoff series last season, when Portland won four straight to clinch the series in six games. 

The game featured two technicals and two flagrant fouls and was tied heading into the fourth quarter before the Clippers pulled away with a 14-1 run midway through the quarter that extended a 90-89 lead to 104-90.

Damian Lillard had 29 points and 10 rebounds, and Maurice Harkless had 23 points and eight rebounds, the most points he's had since joining Portland last season.

The game was tied at 82 headed into the fourth quarter after the Blazers outscored the Clippers 33-24 in the third, thanks in part to a 10-0 start to the second half that was ignited by blocks from Mason Plumlee and Al-Farouq Aminu. But the Clippers countered by scoring the first six points of the fourth, then took control when Portland was called for flagrant fouls on Plumlee and CJ McCollum. 

Plumlee finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists and McCollum had 16 points. Meanwhile, new acquistion Evan Turner struggled with his shot (2-for-8) and had two unforced turnovers and was never a factor in the game. He is 3-for-15 on the season.

In a spirited first half, the Clippers built leads as large as 12 before settling for a 58-49 lead, thanks to the play of their two biggest stars - Paul and Griffin. The guard and forward played a two-man game for much of the half, with Griffin mixing jumpers and rebound dunks to the tune of 16 points and six rebounds while Paul had 12 points and three assists.

Lillard was sharp early, scoring 10 of Portland's first 24 points as the Blazers opened a 24-19 lead. But when he left with 1:39 left in the first quarter and Portland up 27-21, the offense went into hibernation and the Clippers went on a 16-0 run to take a 37-27 lead.

A big factor in the first half was foul trouble for the Blazers. Forward Al-Farouq Aminu, one of the Blazers' best defenders who was assigned to guard Blake Griffin, picked up two fouls and had to leave the game with 8:44 left in the first quarter. When he returned in the second quarter, he lasted only 2:37 before picking up his third foul.  Harkless and reserve center Ed Davis also picked up three fouls and had to go to the bench early. 

Next up: Blazers at Denver, 6 p.m. Saturday (CSN)

Damian Lillard's excellent preseason continues for Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard's excellent preseason continues for Trail Blazers

SALT LAKE CITY – If anything can be said with confidence after this Trail Blazers preseason, it is this: Damian Lillard is headed for another standout season.

The latest assurance came Wednesday in Salt Lake City when Lillard put on a show during the Blazers’ 88-84 victory over Utah.

Amid oohs and aahs from the Vivint Arena crowd, Lillard had 27 points in 28 minutes while making 11-of-16 shots. If he wasn’t aggressively driving for layins, he was stroking from the outside. All the while, he seemed to be surgically picking apart the vaunted Jazz defense with an overall vision of the court and precision passing on pick-and-rolls with Mason Plumlee.

“Tonight he had 27 points, but it was Chris Paul-esque the way he controlled the game,’’ said Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, who works extensively with Lillard. “The game happened the way he wanted it to happen. It’s been a process in getting him to have that kind of vision, but he has it.’’

Lillard this preseason is averaging 19 points in 25 minutes while shooting 48.7 percent from the field and 43.8 percent from three-point range.

Throughout the preseason, Lillard has remarked how the game has slowed down for him, allowing him to both anticipate and identify defenses. Combined with his ramped up shooting routine, which he continues to exercise after practices and before games, Lillard is playing with an even greater confidence than his previous four seasons.

But perhaps most important, Lillard says, is his feet are pain free after enduring a nagging bout with plantar fasciitis last season. The foot injury, which originated in his left heel, surfaced in December, forcing him to miss seven games and play the rest of the season hindered.

“My feet haven’t been healthy since December,’’ Lillard said Wednesday in explaining his explosion off the dribble and rise with his jumper. “I feel good. I couldn’t even run full speed and jump in the playoffs. Now that I finally have my feet under me and it’s pain free, it makes a difference. I can blow by people any time, and I can go full speed and raise up and shoot a jumper. Those are things that were taken away from me.’’

Earlier this preseason, Lillard said he wants to win the NBA’s Most Valuable Player award this season. It has always been a goal of his, but he says this season, with this team, he feels he has a legitimate shot.

If the preseason is any indication, he might very well be a candidate.

“The way he has played this preseason has really set the tone for our mentality and how we are approaching this season,’’ center Mason Plumlee said.