Chris Paul makes the Clippers relevant

Chris Paul Making Clippers Must-See TV

5/8/12 in NBA   |   marcasg   |   18 respect

May 7, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) moves the ball against the defense of Memphis Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph (50) during the overtime period of game four of the Western Conference quarterfinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIREChris Paul is a magician.

Yes, he's very, very good at basketball. But after his uber-clutch Game 4 performance against the Memphis Grizzlies, it's not hard to think that he just might have some otherworldly powers.

It's not just the 27 points, seven assists and team-high nine rebounds he logged Monday night. It's more than the repeated step back daggers he threw in over the outstretched arm of a jelly-legged Marc Gasol.

Instead, it's that Paul is doing something that no one in franchise history has been able to do – make the Clippers relevant. It's something Bill Walton could never accomplish. Danny Manning failed at it. Elton Brand and Corey Maggette couldn't sustain it. And Michael Olowokandi? Well, we'll just move on.

Blake Griffin made the Clippers an attraction. But he was merely the ringleader of the NBA's most recent iteration of a high-flying, three-ring circus. Paul's addition made them formidable. It gave the franchise the floor leader it's searched for since an aging Sam Cassell spent two and a half seasons as a member of Clipper Nation.

This is the part where Laker Fan reminds us that Paul was slated to play for that other basketball team at Staples Center. Duly noted.

Regardless of how he ended up in a Clipper uniform, Paul has the chance to be the franchise player for a franchise that never had one. He made New Orleans pay attention to the Hornets after the disappointment of the 2004-05 season and the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Now he's making people sit up and take notice of a team that has been under constant bombardment from Hurricane Sterling.

Even with an injury-riddled season that limited him to just 60 games, Paul is on pace to become the Clippers' all-time assist leader before his 33rd birthday.

But now Paul has helped lead the Clippers to within a win of the second round, a place they've been just four times in 42 seasons – and only once since leaving Buffalo for the west coast after the 1977-78 season. And with a young corps of budding stars, Paul could be the centerpiece of a perennial contender. If they can convince him to keep his talents in SoCal, that is.

Therein lies the rub. Once again, the ball is in Donald Sterling's court, where it has been so many times before. And so many times before, Sterling has fumbled it out of bounds through a combination of avarice, ineptitude and general bad behavior. But if he can pull a long-term contract out of his hat, it just might be the greatest magic trick the Clippers have ever pulled off.
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