Former Wake Forest star Chris Paul came home to North Carolina Saturday night, leading the L.A. Clippers to a fairly routine 111-86 whipping of the woeful Charlotte Bobcats.
Paul had 18 points and 14 assists in front of what he estimated was a "couple of hundred" family and friends, most from the Winston-Salem area where he grew up. Both his father and brother sat courtside.
I asked Paul a few questions after the game in regard to the theme of my column for Sunday's newspaper and online, which is that any NBA team -- including the Bobcats -- is just two great players away from contending for a championship. The Clippers were a league laughingstock for years -- they once had 29 losing seasons in a 32-year stretch -- but now they have Paul and dunking dynamo Blake Griffin. They can go deep in the postseason.
I mentioned to Paul that the Bobcats (3-24) don't have any superstars while the Clippers (17-8) have two. He then endorsed rookie point guard Kemba Walker (who had 19 points and four assists Saturday) without being asked.
Said Paul of Charlotte: "“They’ve just got to keep working. Kemba is a great young talent. When you’ve got a starting point guard like that, you’ll have an opportunity.”
The Bobcats, of course, once could have had Paul. In 2005, they had the chance to trade the No.5 and No.13 picks away for the No.3 pick, which could have been Paul. They passed on that move, taking Raymond Felton and Sean May instead, and it has haunted them since.