It has been nearly three years since the blockbuster trade that sent point guard Chris Paul from the Clippers to the Rockets. Sports wisdom holds that the team that sends away the best player in any deal will be that deal’s loser, but for L.A., that hasn’t quite been the case. That will be on display Thursday night as the two teams face off in Houston.
Paul is a future Hall of Famer. But in exchange for Paul in 2017, the Clippers got point guard Patrick Beverley, combo guard Lou Williams and big man Montrezl Harrell, plus a draft pick and four eventual castoffs. Paul has since moved on to Oklahoma City, having provided the salary ballast that the Rockets needed to bring in Russell Westbrook.
But the trio of players that remains with the Clippers—Beverley, Harrell and Williams—have been stalwarts of the team’s rotation since their arrival. Williams and Harrell are the backbones of the best bench unit in the NBA. Beverley, meanwhile, is the guy who has set the culture for Los Angeles’ “other team.”
That’s something that the Clippers and coach Doc Rivers asked of Beverley from the get-go. Rivers had clashed with Paul often during their time together in L.A. and, reportedly, Rivers was one of the reasons Paul decided he was open to a trade to Houston. When Rivers got Beverley, a kindred spirit (both are from the western fringes of Chicago) without Paul’s ego, he empowered him to put his fingerprints on the Clippers’ culture.
When Beverley was a free agent this summer, he told me that though he had plans to meet with other teams, he had no doubt he would wind up back with the Clippers.
“From Day One, I knew that,” Beverley said. “They allow me to be me with no control. It’s been working and you wouldn’t want to leave a situation like that.”
‘I Love to See My Teammates Get Off’
Indeed, the Clippers are 42-19 heading into their game against the Rockets on Thursday night. Beverley does not post big numbers (8.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists) but he’s critical to the team’s success. L.A. is 7-9 when Beverley, who has battled a groin problem, does not play.
When he is on the floor, according to Basketball-Reference.com, the Clippers are 3.0 points per 100 possessions better offensively and 1.7 points better defensively. That 4.7 on/off net rating is second on the team among regulars.
Even before the team acquired Paul George and Kawhi Leonard last summer, catapulting the Clippers into championship contention, Beverley was tasked with doing the little things to help the Clippers win.
“I love to see my teammates get off,” Beverley told Heavy.com. “I love that extra pass, game-winning rebounding, game-winning plays. Whatever it takes to win. That’s my thing—it’s not about stats, it’s not about numbers, it’s about Ws and that’s how you get judged at the end of the day, if you’re a winner or loser. You can be a loser with all these great stats but if you haven’t won anything, nobody is gonna remember your name. That’s my thing.”
Rivalry with Rockets’ Westbrook Remains
Beverley has made a name for himself, as much as anyone with his modest numbers could. He became most prominently known for his vise-grip defense going back to his rookie year in 2013, after he came over to Houston from Europe. In the playoffs that year, he was bodying Westbrook, then starring for the Thunder, when Westbrook injured his meniscus and was forced out for the remainder of the postseason.
The rivalry between the two has continued right through this year. There’s some major coincidence in the fact that both Beverley and Westbrook were dealt for Paul. In November, Westbrook said of Beverley, “Pat Bev trick y’all, man, like he playing defense. He don’t guard nobody, man. He just running around, doing nothing.”
Beverley has heard that kind of chatter before. He shrugs it off, confident that his own team has his back.
“Regardless of whether you like me or don’t like me, you’re gonna respect me,” Beverley said, because I’m gonna go out there and leave it all on the line and I’m gonna try to get as many wins as possible. My team, they know that.”