LAS VEGAS – Chris Paul has only known one role over his 18-year NBA career: Leading his team as its starting point guard. The 38-year-old presumably is about to step into a whole new world after being traded to the Warriors on the day of the 2023 NBA Draft, now playing for the same team as fellow superstar point guard Steph Curry.
Never make assumptions. Like the rest of the basketball world and all of Dub Nation, Paul never saw a day where he’d be wearing a Warriors jersey. And he still might not be seeing a day where he’s coming off the bench.
At least not yet.
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“Uhh … you coaching?” Paul said Sunday when asked about leading the Warriors’ bench in his introductory press conference.
Between the regular season and the playoffs, Paul has played 1,363 games in the NBA. He has started every single one, from his rookie year on.
Though he was supposed to begin his freshman season at Wake Forest backing up junior guard Taron Downey, Paul started all 31 games and was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year. How far do you have to go back to find a game Paul wasn’t in the starting lineup? The second game of his sophomore season -- Nov. 22, 2004.
Golden State Warriors
In a 27-point win against Yale, Paul played a team-high 29 minutes and put up 15 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals.
His new coach, Steve Kerr, also was at the Thomas & Mack Center on UNLV’s campus Sunday and will have his hands full figuring out how to best use his newest point guard. The two have spoken, though, Paul says starting or not wasn’t a topic of their conversation.
“It’ll be a conversation for us when camp starts,” Paul said. “Me and Steve have talked or whatnot. You know, that ain’t something where you’d be like, ‘What up, man? You’re not starting.’ I think we’ll figure all that stuff out.”
As far as Paul’s fit with the Warriors, in whatever capacity that might be, he doesn’t seem worried at all about he and his new teammates needing time to mesh.
“Not to sound crazy, but at the end of the day it’s basketball,” Paul said. “It’s not brain surgery. I’m going into a situation with a bunch of guys who have played together for a long time. I don’t know, I guess it’s me but I’m not as worried about it as probably everybody else is.
“When I say everybody, not necessarily our team. We’re gonna figure it out.”
From a roster standpoint, it’s hard not to see all the advantages of Paul leading the Warriors’ bench unit and closing out games -- depending on the matchup. He should be able to unlock Jonathan Kuminga’s otherworldly talent, just like he did with DeAndre Jordan, Deandre Ayton and many others. Moses Moody should be a big beneficiary as well. And Paul already has chemistry playing with stretch big man Dario Saric.
Paul’s arrival should allow Curry and Draymond Green to play together even more, and could see Klay Thompson spending more minutes on the court alongside CP3 in Kerr’s rotations. Remember what he did for shooters like JJ Redick and Devin Booker? A Paul-Thompson duo on paper is a shooter’s paradise.
Kerr and the rest of his coaching staff have months before they must make the ultimate decision of when Paul will hear his name called, either in the starting lineup or as the first Warrior checking into games. All of this still feels like a Basketball Bizarro World, and it will be fascinating to watch how the circus unfolds in San Francisco.