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Paul grateful for change

Clippers embrace their new star

Chris Paul has already told the Clippers he will exercise his player option for next season and stay alongside Blake Griffin. Chris Paul has already told the Clippers he will exercise his player option for next season and stay alongside Blake Griffin. (Mark j. Terrill/Associated Press)
Associated Press / December 16, 2011
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Chris Paul endured two weeks of sleepless nights, stressful days, and at least one imploded trade before he finally found a new home with the Clippers.

That’s just one reason the West Coast looks so good to the superstar point guard, who’s eager to start turning his new franchise into the greatest show in Los Angeles.

The Clippers formally introduced their new acquisition last night after he spent the day at their training complex. The longtime New Orleans guard tried on his new No. 3 jersey and met with Blake Griffin and the rest of his revitalized teammates, who can’t wait to catch the four-time All-Star’s passes.

“This is not my day, by the way. This is the Clippers’ day,’’ Paul told an overflowing media crowd. “This is a humbling experience, and I’m so grateful and thankful to be here.’’

A day earlier, the Clippers acquired Paul in a four-player trade with the Hornets, outmaneuvering the Lakers and several other suitors for the player widely considered the NBA’s best point guard. Paul realizes his move is a bold endorsement of the Clippers, who have been overshadowed by the Lakers for three decades.

“The other team has won championships, and it’s about winning, but I think Blake has done an unbelievable job changing that [perception],’’ Paul said. “You can’t take anything away from him about how he has changed the culture here in L.A.’’

Griffin is sad to lose teammates Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al-Farouq Aminu in the deal, but last season’s Rookie of the Year is looking forward to lining up with Paul and fellow newcomers Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,’’ Griffin said. “The target has shifted a little bit, but the only thing I’m going to promise is that you’re going to get our best every night. And when you hear ‘The Clippers,’ it’s not going to be a joke anymore. I can guarantee you that.’’

Paul has told the Clippers he’ll exercise his player option for next season, keeping him alongside Griffin for at least two years.

Hornets move on

With Paul gone, Hornets general manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams moved on with their plans for the season without the drag that a disgruntled superstar can cause.

“Now is the next step,’’ Demps said. “I don’t know if it’s relief. We’re glad to get that process over. And we’ve got some other things we need to do to get our roster ready.’’

Yesterday, the Hornets re-signed power forward Carl Landry, who averaged 11.8 points last season after being acquired from Sacramento in February.

Not backing down

Magic center Dwight Howard said his trade request hasn’t been withdrawn, one day after general manager Otis Smith shook off questions about what offers he’d received and said that trade discussions involving the franchise cornerstone “could go to the end of the season.’’

Tomorrow, Magic fans will get their first opportunity in person to express how they feel about Howard’s desires when the team holds an open scrimmage at the Amway Center. Howard said he doesn’t have any expectations about the reception he will get.

“I have no idea,’’ he said. “It’s a day for us to get better as a team and that’s the only thing I look at.’’

Blazers get Crawford

One of the top remaining free agents, guard Jamal Crawford, announced his choice on Twitter, posting “Rip city!!!’’ The Blazers made it official a few hours later, announcing a two-year contract for Crawford. Financial terms were not released. In order to make a deal with Crawford (the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago), Portland used its amnesty clause to waive guard Brandon Roy, who announced his retirement last week because of ongoing knee problems. The Blazers also signed former Boston College forward Craig Smith . . . The Jazz reached a deal with forward Josh Howard pending the outcome of a successful physical. The signing “most likely’’ means the Jazz will not re-sign forward Andrei Kirilenko, according to his agent, Marc Fleisher . . . The Nets signed forward Shawne Williams away from the rival Knicks. New Jersey also waived forward Travis Outlaw and signed forward Ime Udoka. Outlaw was designated New Jersey’s amnesty player, taking roughly $7 million off the Nets’ salary cap . . . The Bobcats signed guard Reggie Williams to a two-year contract, though Williams will be out 6-8 weeks because of a pre-existing knee injury that will require surgery.

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