Is this Clippers guard Chris Paul's season to take over Los Angeles — namely, win an NBA championship and eclipse Kobe Bryant on the relevance level?
In a city filled with stars, Paul's star has been shining bright enough for that question to be asked.
But in the eyes of Byron Scott, who has a unique perspective because he grew up in Southern California, played for the Lakers and played with Bryant, and coached Paul, it would be a tall order for Paul to steal Bryant's star power in L.A.
"No, this is still going to be a Lakers' town. Period. Chris Paul or no Chris Paul," Scott said, laughing. "Now what it's going to do for the Clippers and Chris Paul is if they win, it's definitely going to heighten them as far as promotional things. The Clipper fans are going to love Chris Paul like they do now even more if the Clippers win a championship. They love that kid to death and they should."
As for Paul, the six-time All-Star has a simple goal.
He doesn't just want to be better than the Lakers or Bryant. Paul yearns for the Clippers to be the best team in the NBA at the end of the 2013-14 season.
"I don't worry about whose town it is," Paul said. "And I don't think this ever will be a Clipper town. It's too much history with the Lakers and you don't want to take that away."
Paul, 28, knows the Lakers have won 16 NBA championships, 11 in L.A. He knows the Clippers have never won a title or been to an NBA Finals, and the franchise has only one Pacific Division championship, last season.
He also knows all of the legends who have played for the Lakers, ticking off names like Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Wilt Chamberlain.
"You always have to appreciate history. But I don't have anything to do with what used to be," Paul said. "That wasn't in my time. So all I can control is my time period. If they are still talking about what Wilt did and what Magic did and what Jerry did and what this guy did, then so be it. Like I said, there is always history. I just worry about now and what I can do for the Clippers."
Scott likes this Clippers team and believes they have the talent to reach the Western Conference finals.
It's just that he has lived through too much in this city to see it turned over to Paul and the Clippers just yet.
Scott attended Morningside High in Inglewood. He won three NBA championships as a player with the Lakers, and played with Bryant during his rookie season in 1996-97. Scott coached Paul in his first four seasons in the NBA when both were with New Orleans.
"When the Clippers win about 15 or 16 championships, maybe the city will go from purple and gold to red, white and blue," said Scott, who interviewed for the Clippers' head coaching job that went to Doc Rivers. "But L.A. is going to always be a Laker town. Always. Now if the Clippers win, all it's going to do is make the rivalry that much better in the next few years."
It's not as if Paul isn't already widely recognized as one of the NBA's elite players.
Paul has made the All-NBA team five times, including the last two seasons while playing with the Clippers. He has made the NBA's all-defensive team five times.And he has become an international star by winning a gold medal with the U.S. in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Since joining the Clippers via trade from New Orleans in 2011, Paul has played a major role in helping to change the culture of the franchise.
"Chris is in the Jason Kidd category as far as seeing the game before it happens," Portland Coach Terry Stotts said. "At both ends of the floor, he's able to anticipate what's going to happen. He's one of those guys that makes their team better, players better and guys like playing with him."
When NBA.com this month released its annual general managers' survey, Paul stood tall among the front-office types.
Paul was voted the NBA's best point guard with 70% of the votes, as well as the league's best passer (47.7%) and best leader (33.3%).
"He's one of the best players in the league, obviously," Golden State point guard Stephen Curry said. "Because of the skill set he has and the plays that he makes on the court and his leadership. I've learned a lot from him."
"I think Chris is the best point guard in the NBA," Scott said. "This boy wants to win in everything he does and he wants to win as bad as anybody that I've seen besides Kobe and I played with a guy who wanted to win more than anybody that I've ever seen and that's Magic. CP is in that company. He has that drive."
All of that is why Rivers wanted to coach Paul.
"I've played against him enough to know that he's special," Rivers said. "He's one of the best players in our league."
Until he wins an NBA championship, Paul said, he won't be satisfied.
In Paul's stints with New Orleans and the Clippers, the teams have a 16-24 record over five playoff runs. The deepest he got in the playoffs was a Game 7 loss to San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals in 2008.
And if that championship happens this season, Paul said he still won't worry about trying to be the biggest, brightest basketball star in the City of Angels.
"As a leader of the team, I'm always bothering myself about different things," Paul said. "I need to get better at this, get better at that. ... But I really just want to win. That's it."
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