No offense to Lamar Odom and his accomplishments, but the trade that moved Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets to the Los Angeles Clippers was the trade that sent shock waves across the NBA landscape.
And for various reasons.
Last month Paul was originally part of a blockbuster trade that would have shipped him from the Hornets to the Los Angeles Lakers in a deal that involved Odom going to New Orleans. But NBA commissioner David Stern vetoed that deal, and Paul was eventually traded to the Clippers, while Odom was traded to the Dallas Mavericks.
For a franchise that has seen more than its share of hard times, the Clippers received a major shot in the arm with the acquisition of Paul. The spunky seven-year veteran is one the game's top point guards and a player who -- combined with All-Stars Blake Griffin and Chauncey Billups -- can turn the downtrodden Clippers into possible NBA championship contenders.
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"He's the head that drives the engine," Mavs guard Jason Terry said. "He goes out and gets those guys in position to be successful, whether it's alley-oops on the fast break or in pick-and-roll situations.
"But he has Chauncey Billups right there with him, so that's definitely a steady force. If he gets tired he's going to give him the ball and let him operate."
The emergence of Paul, 26, has been such a hot topic of conversation that for the first time there's a heated debate in Southern California over whether the Hollywood-darling Lakers or the revamped Clippers are the best team in Los Angeles. But Sacramento Kings assistant coach Bobby Jackson acknowledged that it's way too early for such a debate.
"You base that on after the end of the season. You can't base it on right now, because the Lakers are playing really well right now," Jackson said. "But I wouldn't bet against [the Lakers'] Kobe [Bryant], I tell you that.
"He's still got it and he still is willing to prove people wrong."
What Paul hopes to prove is that he has the skills and leadership qualities to steer the Clippers into the playoffs for the first time since they lost to Phoenix in seven games in the second round of the 2006 postseason. So far, the early returns have been favorable.
Paul is first in the NBA in steals (2.78), sixth in assists (8.4), 12th in minutes played (37.3), 16th in 3-point shooting (45.5 percent), and tied for 18th in scoring (18.0). However, he is listed as day-to-day with a strained left hamstring and might not play when the Clippers (7-3) host the Mavs (8-6) tonight at 9:30 CST at the Staples Center.
The Mavs won't lose any sleep if Paul sits out his third straight game.
"Offensively, he dictates the tempo, finds the open guy, and he can score," Mavs point guard Jason Kidd said. "Defensively, he causes havoc and he can get in the passing lanes to break up the rhythm of the game.
"He just doesn't play on one side. He plays both sides."
Paul had been the centerpiece of the Hornets since they made him the fourth overall pick of the 2005 draft. The four-time All-Star also was a fixture in the community with his charitable work.
Without Paul, the Hornets are 3-10, with coach Monty Williams saying of Paul's departure: "He meant everything. It was a big loss."
Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki is impressed with the way Paul has transformed the Clippers into headline-grabbing winners.
"He's a great floor leader," Nowitzki said. "He gets everybody involved and he can score when he has to.
"He's one of the best point guards that we have in the league. They're legit in the West and they're going to be great for a long time."
As Kidd noted, Paul's greatness is revealed on both ends of the court. Yet his greatest attribute may be the way those around him suddenly improve their level of play.
"He's a player that makes everybody better," Jackson said. "He's a guy that loves the game, is very competitive and hates losing.
"But he's also one of the nicest and most humble guys you will ever meet.
"He's got great people around him, and that keeps him humble."
Dwain Price, 817-390-7760