Los Angeles believes the offseason acquisition of Chris Paul can transform the Clippers from longtime losers into the NBA elite.
Derrick Rose’s development over the past few seasons with Chicago has quickly helped the Bulls move into that realm.
The starting point guards from last season’s All-Star game square off Friday night when Rose’s Bulls visit Paul in the Clippers’ home opener.
In one of the biggest trades in franchise history, Los Angeles (1-1) acquired Paul from New Orleans on Dec. 14. The move pairs the four-time All-Star with the high-flying Blake Griffin and suddenly has the Clippers poised to put years of frustration behind them.
Paul had a solid debut for the Clippers, finishing with 20 points and nine assists in a 105-86 win over Golden State on Christmas, but struggled a bit in Wednesday’s 115-90 loss to San Antonio. He had 10 points on 3 of 10 shooting with nine assists.
“We are going to practice and figure out what we did right and figure out what we did wrong,” Paul said. “First things first, we need to start with me.”
Fans would certainly like to see Paul feed Griffin a bit more. The two have not yet hooked up for an alley-oop, something many were envisioning when the trade was made.
Griffin has still made his presence felt, combining for 50 points in the first two games. He totaled 61 points and 25 rebounds against the Bulls last season to help the Clippers split the two-game series.
Although Los Angeles was one of just five teams to win at the United Center in 2010-11, Paul has never defeated Rose, losing all four head-to-head matchups. In his lone game against the Bulls last season, Paul had 15 points on 3 of 10 shooting with six assists in a loss with the Hornets.
Rose averaged 33.0 points and 9.5 assists against the Clippers last season. The Bulls (2-1) went an NBA-best 62-20 a year ago after winning 41 in each of Rose’s first two seasons under current Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro and are again considered championship contenders.
Rose, however, hasn’t played up to his lofty standards in Chicago’s last two games. The two-time All-Star had 13 points on 4 of 17 shooting in a 99-91 loss to Golden State on Monday, and finished with 19 points and six turnovers while being plagued by foul trouble in Thursday’s 108-98 win over Sacramento.
“I wanted to be more aggressive and attack the hole. (Fouls) are something I have to get through and can’t worry about,” he said. “I’m just happy we won the game.”
Although Rose never seemed to find his rhythm against the Kings, the Bulls still finished with season highs in scoring and field goal percentage (53.8). Carlos Boozer and Richard Hamilton each scored 16, while Luol Deng and Ronnie Brewer finished with 12 points apiece.
Chicago’s offense now looks to frustrate a Los Angeles team that allowed the Spurs to shoot 56.3 percent and score 48 points in the paint.
“Our defense needs to be better, and it can get better,” Griffin said. “The good thing about the mistakes out there is that they are easily correctable.”