LOS ANGELES – Thunder coach Scott Brooks calls it “the perfect combination.”
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin was the unanimous Rookie of the Year last season and quickly became an NBA force, but his stock rose even higher with the Dec. 14 acquisition of point guard Chris Paul from New Orleans.
With the league's best record in tow at 16-3, the Thunder will do what it can to contain the Clippers' captivating “Lob City” combo on Monday at 9:30 p.m. at Staples Center.
A former point guard, Brooks has a deep appreciation for those who excel at the position, and Paul leaves Brooks shaking his head.
“The guy is one of the best,” Brooks said. “He's clever. He's tough. He's a coach on the floor. He will make Blake better because he finds him in the right spots.”
Brooks said the Clippers are much more than “Lob City.” Paul is so good, Brooks jokingly said he and Paul together would have made a solid backcourt.
“He can make a lot of players better,” Brooks said. “I probably could have played in the backcourt with him and there would have been a lot of open jump shots for me.
“It's not just the lobs. It's the timing plays when you need to get the ball on time. Paul gets it there. If you the transition with Paul, he's going to find you on the break, find you in the wings, find you at the basket. He can find players who are open when other players can't see it.”
Nothing is more difficult to consistently defend than the perfect pick-and-roll and the perfect lob combination. Griffin already was a monster. His fangs grew longer with the addition of Paul.
“Blake gets to a height that NBA teams have never seen before,” Brooks said. “You could throw it three feet above the rim and he's going to somehow get up there and get it.”
Brooks also stressed the additions of veteran All-Stars Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler cannot be overlooked.
“Their talent is good,” Brooks said of the Clippers. “They don't just have a bunch of athletes who aren't good basketball players. They have athletes who are skilled and can play. They know the tricks. Chauncey is one of the best clutch players in basketball.”
Thunder reserve point guard Royal Ivey was drafted in 2004, one year before Paul, and has observed the former Wake Forest standout closely.
“He's a great catalyst,” Ivey said of the 26-year-old Paul, who already is in his seventh season. “He's the quarterback. He's great at the pick-and-roll and he's great at picking a team apart. He draws the bigs and he gives up the ball. He's a pass-first point guard. He's not really making the home-run plays. He's just making the plays the defense gives him. He's a high-level point guard, one of the elite.”
Is Paul among the best ever?
“I think when it's all said and done he has a chance, but I can't really call that right now,” Ivey said. “That's down the line.”