Paul relishing challenge of a title run

LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul doesn't think much about his legacy.

He knows he has never made it out of the second round of the playoffs. He knows he's turning 30 next month. He knows his career will ultimately be judged by what he does this time of year and not the previous six months.

He knows all this but doesn't really think much about it until he stands or sits in front of a group of reporters.

"Only when y'all are asking questions like that," Paul said Sunday night. "When they throw the ball up, I'm trying to figure out what play we're going to run, if I'm going to attack, if I'm going to pass. ... We're playing basketball, man, trying to win as many games as possible."

To win his first title, Paul will have to win 16 games and half that in order to get to his first conference finals. He got the first win out of the way Sunday as he had 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 107-92 win over the San Antonio Spurs in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.

Paul gets asked about his lack of playoff success more times than he cares when the postseason rolls around, but he never shies away from the questions because there's nothing to hide. His record is there for all to see and critique.

"It's not a secret," Paul said. "I'm funny, man. I'm one of those people, I don't need anything to drive me. I'm going to play regardless. Win it, lose it, say I'm the best, say I'm the worst, I'm going to play."

Paul scored 25 of of his 32 points in the second half, going 6-for-7 for 13 points in nine minutes in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Paul scored seven straight points to put the game away in the final quarter, and at one point looked at his brother C.J., who was sitting courtside and smiling.

"He was locked in," C.J. said after the game. "You could tell that he was locked in tonight. He wasn't going to lose."

Paul spent all day Saturday watching the playoff games on television and playing Legos with his kids when there was a break in between games. Paul's life is consumed by basketball. His teammates are sometimes amazed when they get a text from him on a Friday or Saturday night when the team is off, about a play he just saw in a game on television.

"If Chris sleeps eight hours a day, he probably thinks about basketball 14 hours a day," J.J. Redick said. "He probably thinks about his family the other two hours. He's always thinking about basketball. It's what drives him. There are certain guys, regardless of what they accomplish or how much money they get paid or what endorsements they get, they're wired to be great and they don't let that stop them from working and getting better. Chris is one of those guys."

Doc Rivers almost laughs when he hears questions about Paul's legacy before his 30th birthday. There will be a time and a place for that if Paul retires without a ring, but he doesn't understand the need to do that during the first round of his fourth playoff run with the Clippers.

"He has a great legacy, but he's still playing," Rivers said. "He's 30 years old. What I don't understand is why anybody's talking about anybody's legacy when they're 30. I've never figured that one out. Legacies, you talk about them after everything's done. You can't worry about in the middle of it what you have to do to make a better legacy. It's silly talk to me."

It may be "silly talk" but Paul understands the talk. He may not engage in it now, but it does cross his mind in the offseason. He was 22 when he first faced the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs back in 2008 as a member of the New Orleans Hornets. He was one win away of going to the Western Conference finals in a year in which he finished a close second to Kobe Bryant in the MVP race. He thought it was just the beginning of many MVP races and championship runs in his career, but he has never been as close to either since then.

Now, seven years later, he's a husband, a father of two and turning 30 in May, and he realizes that only one thing matters to him in his career.

"I just need to win a championship," he said earlier this season. "You can have whatever else. I don't care. You can have the assists and steals titles, you can have all that. I just need to win a championship."