After Chris Paul broke Magic Johnson’s 23-year-old record on Wednesday night by recording at least 10 points and 10 assists through the first 12 games of the season, Doc Rivers sounded somewhat unimpressed.
“I think half these records we have now are made up records now from Elias,” Rivers told reporters (quote provided by Clippers quote sheet). “Who ever knew we had these records. Who comes up with that stuff? At the end of the day when you’re in the neighborhood, any made up record or not, and the only other name is Magic Johnson, that’s pretty special company.”
Rivers has held firm to the idea that personal records will mean little if the Clippers aren’t playing for something greater in June.
"The first meeting I had with Doc, he pretty much told me I wasn't anything,” Paul said before the start of training camp. “He told me I hadn't done anything in this league, and he was right.”
Rivers recently laughed about Paul’s recollection of that meeting, saying those may not have been his actual words, but that the point was essentially right.
“I've been fortunate enough to lead the league in steals, assists and all the stuff for a few years,” Paul recently said. “I'm over that. I just want to win. I could care less about the rest of it.”
Paul and the Clippers still have six months to try to find a way to advance to their first Western Conference Finals and NBA Finals but Paul’s start to the season shouldn’t be overlooked as they think big picture. Paul became the first player in NBA history to have a points-assists double-double through the first 12 games of the season, breaking Johnson’s record set at the start of the 1990-91 season.
“It’s huge because Magic is a mentor of mine,” Paul told reporters after Wednesday’s game. “He’s someone that I look up to. His basketball credentials are unbelievable, so to be mentioned in anything with him, is huge. It’s an honor, a privilege.”
It’s the kind of accomplishment Paul doesn’t normally like to acknowledge after games, choosing instead to focus on the team and the result, but it was a little easier for Paul to appreciate the accomplishment after the way he closed out Wednesday night’s 102-98 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves. Paul had just four points in the first 43 minutes of the game, but finished the game by scoring 16 points in the final 5 minutes of the game.
“It’s like you can always count on him,” Blake Griffin told reporters in Minnesota. “No matter how he’s played through three quarters or three and a half quarters or whatever is, you know he’s going to come up with big plays, whether it’s assists, steals scoring, whatever it is.”
Paul’s record-breaking start to the season has overshadowed an impressive start to the season by his frontcourt teammates as well. Griffin had 20 points and 10 rebounds on Wednesday, his ninth 20-10 game this season and his 99th since the 2010-11 season, which is tied for the most in the league during that time. In the third quarter alone Griffin had 14 points on a perfect 7-of-7 shooting. Meanwhile DeAndre Jordan had 12 rebounds on Wednesday, his ninth double-digit rebounding game of the season, and he is averaging 13.3 rebounds per game this season, which is an improvement of 6.1 rebounds over his average last season.
Rivers has tried to push the trio of Paul, Griffin and Jordan as the Clippers’ “Big Three” since the start of training camp and if anyone outside of stat geeks are to realize and appreciate what Paul is doing on the court, Griffin and Jordan will need to continue to develop and build on the career-best starts to their seasons.
Of all of the reasons Johnson is considered the best point guard in NBA history, the fact that he started the 1990-91 season with 11 straight double-doubles is probably the least important and memorable. Paul knows that. He knows he will ultimately be judged and remembered the same way all great players are.
“The biggest goal is to win a championship,” Paul said last week. “Me and Blake joke about it. That first year I was here it felt like every game we played, we reached a milestone. It’s like the first time the Clippers scored 70 points, it’s the first time the Clippers did this [or that]. It’s cool but we still have a ways to go.”.