The Paul That Stirs the Drink
With apologies to my childhood hero Reggie Jackson, Chirs Paul is indeed the straw that is stirring the drink that is the Oklahoma City Thunder. Friday during ESPN's The Jump Rachel Nichols posed the question are the Thunder better than last year?
Not only did Amin Elhassan and Scottie Pippen both say yes, but Pippen also gave credit to Paul for being the driving force behind the Thunder's success. "I have to say, Chris Paul gets his guys to play the way he wants them to play, and they follow the way he plays."..."They don't calm down; they don't take bad shots, they don't give up on the defensive end, they play hard on every possession.".. "And I think that all is a feed from the way Chris Paul plays and the way he gets his guys to believe they have to play that way to win."
Pippen also says that the Thunder aren't as talented as they were a season ago, "but they have better leadership." These words are coming from a guy who played with Michael Jordan. Jordan may not have been the most friendly guy (ask Steve Kerr), but there is no doubt the Bulls followed his lead. If anyone knows first hand on what leadership should look like, it's Pippen, pretty high praise for Oklahoma City's point guard.
As cool as it is to receive acclamation from a Hall of Famer, admiration from your current teammates goes farther. Sunday after practice, Danilo Gallinari was asked to make a case for Paul in the MVP race and said: "He's the MVP no doubt."..."I've played with a lot of players in my 12 years in the league, and I think he's the best leader that I've played with."..."He's smart, he knows the game, he knows how to talk to each and every one of us, he knows how to manage the pace of a game."..."All those things together, other than he's an amazing talent, all these things make him a great leader."
The communication part is what separates Paul from Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. At one point you could chalk that up to age, but, Westbrook turned 30 in his final season in Oklahoma City, by that point you either know how to talk with your teammates or you don't. As for Durant, his time away from the Thunder has shown leadership is not his forte.
It was evident in Golden State that Steph Curry and Draymond Green ran the show, it's also apparent in things that Durant has said since he left, that while he may want the ball in clutch time running a team seems to be too much of a heavy load. It almost makes you feel sorry for Nets fans.
Per Maddie Lee of the Oklahoman: Andre Roberson is still doing individual workouts, not team practice, and the Thunder did rest a few players on Sunday even though they were cleared to play. Donovan declined to say which players sat out.
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