Don’t think for one second that Chris Paul doesn’t know what it means for New Orleans to get the All-Star Game again just because he no longer lives in the city.
Monday, six days ahead of participating in his second Crescent City NBA classic, Paul expressed that he does, in fact, understand the meaning.
“If anyone knows me, they know how much I love the city and how much I miss the city,” the Clippers’ All-Star said during a conference call with reporters. “As I always say, it is not Bourbon Street, not the beignets, not the amazing restaurants. It is the people that make the city of New Orleans.
“As much as I am excited to get down to the city of New Orleans, I am most excited to get down there and see those families and fresh faces of the people of New Orleans who really just became a part of my family.”
Paul isn’t just blowing smoke in talking about his love for New Orleans. He remains active in the community, doing service-oriented activities. He’ll host an afterschool celebration at KIPP Central City on Thalia Street on Thursday, before All-Star weekend activities fully begin.
“Every time we go to play, those kids come to the game to watch and I spend some time with them pregame or go to the school during the day,” Paul said.
Paul, drafted by the then-named Hornets in 2005, was traded to the Clippers on Dec. 14, 2011 just after the NBA came back from a lockout.
In return, New Orleans received center Chris Kaman, forward Al-Farouq Aminu and guard Eric Gordon as well as Los Angeles’ unprotected first-round pick, which the Clippers received from Minnesota.
Gordon and Aminu remain with the Pelicans, both as starters, though it took awhile for the former to be healthy enough to play consistently.
Paul, meanwhile, has become an integral part of the Western Conference’s fourth-best team and an annual contender.
But while the relationship between Paul and the franchise soured, he never lost his love of the city.
“It is funny because (players) would always ask me, ‘Do you really like it down there?’ ” Paul said. “And I used to say, ‘I love it.’ I lived right downtown on the water. I was close to everything, like I said. It is one of those things where you have to get there to experience it for yourself to see how great it is.”
Only after the 2008 All-Star Game, which the NBA committed to in the months after Hurricane Katrina, did the outside world begin to realize the beauty that is New Orleans, Paul said.
“After that All-Star Game, people realized how great it was,” Paul said. “Think about it, the city is used to all that. They host events all year round, so the All-Star Game is no different.”
For Paul, the ties are still deep.
“My sister in law is born and raised in New Orleans; my entire family is coming with me to the game,” Paul said. “My family pastor is still in New Orleans and I am actually going to christen my daughter and my brother is going to christen his two twins in New Orleans when we are there."