LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul can’t recall the exact moment he knew that he wanted to stay with the Los Angeles Clippers. Once he decided, though, the free agent All-Star was quick to commit.
He signed a five-year deal worth nearly $108 million on Tuesday night when the league’s moratorium lifted, and told the Clippers he wanted to talk about it with the rest of the team’s free agent signees on Wednesday.
Paul didn’t want the spotlight to himself because he said, “There’s no one person who is more important on the team.”
He joined Matt Barnes and Ryan Hollins, who both re-signed, along with newly acquired Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, and new coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers at the team’s training complex.
“This is a great day for all of us,” Rivers said. “I’ve done a lot of begging over the last week or two, and now I can do some coaching.”
Paul described the scene as “one of the biggest days in franchise history. We all wanted to do it together. It shows what we’re trying to do here.”
Barnes signed an $11 million, three-year deal.
“We’re loaded at every position,” he said. “Who doesn’t want to play with Chris? He’s arguably the best point guard in the game. It just shows this organization has come a long way. They’re making the right moves.”
The Clippers’ re-shaping of their roster included a three-team trade that landed Dudley and Redick. In exchange for getting Dudley, the Clippers sent backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix along with forward Caron Butler. Redick came via a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee in a $27 million, four-year deal.
“We just complement everybody who is already here,” Redick said. “I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Doc. He kind of targeted me. Having Chris here was a huge part of me coming here.”
Keeping Paul in a Clippers uniform was the team’s No. 1 goal. And he didn’t seriously consider going anywhere else.
“It was an easy decision for me. There was no need to put any of that added stress on anybody, especially my family,” he said. “My wife wasn’t sure if she’d have to pull the kids out of school. Lil’ Chris didn’t want to leave his friends. He said, ‘It doesn’t rain here,’ and he likes it because he can go swimming.”
Paul pointed out that he’s been quick to commit in the past. In high school, he made his official visit to Wake Forest and committed, eschewing other visits.
“It was important,” Rivers said of Paul’s decisiveness. “It told everyone else he really wants to be here. He didn’t want to be on the parade route to other cities.”
Paul and Redick are on the same team, something neither would have imagined back when Paul played for Wake Forest and Redick was at Duke.
“There was animosity there for a number of years,” Redick said.
Paul added, “I’m so happy we’re on the same team and I don’t have to chase him.”
Paul is eager to atone for last season’s playoff disappointment, when the Clippers lost to Memphis in the first round after winning 56 games and the Pacific Division.
“I feel like this was unfinished business. Me and Blake (Griffin) have talked this offseason about what we can build,” he said.
Rivers’ presence has got Paul’s attention, too.
“It’s been unreal how he’s excited and motivated me again,” he said. “I feel like a rookie again.”
Former UCLA players Barnes, Hollins and Collison are on the same team, with Collison set to be Paul’s backup now that Bledsoe has been shipped out. Collison and Paul were teammates in New Orleans in 2009-10, Collison’s rookie year.
“I came here to win a championship,” said Collison, set to begin his fifth season in the league.
Like Barnes and Redick, Collison took less money to join a franchise that started to shed its losing ways the last two years. He is set to earn $1.9 million next season, with an opt-out clause.
“To land him in a backup role is huge,” Hollins said. “He’s such a selfless player.”