Doc Rivers: Chris Paul departure ‘big loss,’ happy with Clippers’ ‘assets’ – ESPN

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Chris Paul is heading to Houston to join James Harden, and the Rockets will have two All-Stars in the backcourt to lead their chase for a championship after a blockbuster trade with the LA Clippers on Wednesday.

“Any day you can acquire a Hall of Fame-level player is a good day for the franchise,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said. “… It’s a weapons race in the NBA, and you’re either in the weapons race or on the sidelines. We felt with Harden in his prime, Chris Paul in his prime, this gives us a real shot to chase the juggernaut teams that are out there and puts us right there with them.”

The Rockets will send Sam Dekker, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Montrezl Harrell, Kyle Wiltjer, a top-three protected 2018 first-round pick and $661,000 to the Clippers in exchange for Paul, who said on Twitter that he was going through an “unbelievable amount of emotions right now.”

The Clippers had not yet committed to give Paul the full five-year max contract of $201 million, league sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne. There was still strong internal debate on whether the team should pay $45 million in the final year of a deal, in which Paul would have been age 37.

Sources also told Shelburne that with Paul in the fold, Houston now will try to acquire All-Star Paul George from the Indiana Pacers.

“Since winning back-to-back championships, the pursuit of a third title has remained the ultimate goal for our franchise,” Rockets owner Leslie Alexander said in a statement. “We feel that combining two of the league’s greatest players in James Harden and Chris Paul, operating in Coach [Mike] D’Antoni’s system, gives us a championship-caliber team that will compete at the highest level for years to come.”

The Clippers were determined to get something for Paul, rather than lose him for nothing, sources told ESPN, so the point guard, who wanted to play with Harden, instead agreed to opt in for the final year of his contract (worth $24.2 million) to facilitate the trade.

“Without Harden, none of this happens,” Morey said. “He’s the reason everyone wants to be in Houston. … We have the two best playmakers in the league.”

2 Related

Sources told ESPN’s Michael Eaves that the relationship between Paul and Doc Rivers, the Clippers coach and president of basketball operations, had deteriorated rapidly since the Clippers acquired Austin Rivers — Doc’s son — during the 2015-16 season.

Rivers, speaking with the Los Angeles Times, called Paul’s departure “a big loss” and that he was thankful for Paul’s time with the Clippers.

“He left because he wanted to be with James Harden,” Rivers said. “Let’s not get that twisted. I wish him well. I have no problem with that. Do I disagree? Yeah, I think he would have been better served here. But that’s not for me. That’s [for] CP to decide, and he decided against that.”

But Rivers said the Clippers did terrific under the circumstances and now “have assets.”

“We’ve heard all the stories about Blake [Griffin] and DJ [DeAndre Jordan] and Austin,” Rivers said. “I can’t comment just on Austin, because it’s just not right. We’ve heard he left because of all three today. He left because of DJ, he left because of Blake and now he left because of Austin. We know he didn’t leave because of that. There is a lot of speculation on why he left. The one thing I know is he didn’t leave because of any of those three guys. He left because he felt like he would have a better chance to win somewhere else.”

Paul met with the Clippers on Tuesday and didn’t like what he heard from the team, sources told ESPN. He informed them Tuesday night that he planned to leave in free agency if he declined his option.

“At the end of the day, [Paul] gave us four good years, and that’s all I can ask for,” Rivers told the Times. “I hate the way it ended. I wish we could have ended it better, as far as winning. But as a franchise, we love where we’re at.”

The Rockets needed to make the finances work before the trade became official. Houston’s other moves included acquiring Hilliard (from Detroit), Liggins (Dallas), Ryan Kelly (Atlanta), Shawn Long (Philadelphia) and Tim Quarterman (Portland) in exchange for cash considerations.

Because he is being acquired in a trade, Paul is eligible for a five-year deal worth an estimated $205 million from the Rockets after the 2017-18 season. If the nine-time All-Star had opted out and signed with a team other than the Clippers in free agency, the most that team could have offered was a four-year deal worth just more than $152 million.

“We want Chris here as long as possible,” Morey said.

The San Antonio Spurs also had planned to aggressively pursue Paul if he had become a free agent, sources told ESPN.

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