Chri Paul move to bench for 1t time in 18-plu-eaon career, continue to thrive in reduced role with Warrior

Draymond Green returned to the Golden State Warriors lineup Sunday night.

For Chris Paul, that meant coming off the bench for the first time in his 18-plus-season NBA career. The 12-time All-Star and 11-time All-NBA point guard adopted his reserve role in his third game with his new team and helped the Warriors to a 106-85 win over the Houston Rockets. Prior to Sunday, Paul had started each of the 1,216 games hed played in the league.

Pauls stat line wasnt as gaudy as prime CP3s. But he anchored the second unit while tallying eight points, seven assists, five rebounds and a steal. His plus-22 in the plus/minus column was the best on the team by a long shot. Gary Payton II was second-best at plus-15, while none of Golden States starters posted better than plus-five (Kevon Looney) on an off-shooting night from the field (43.2% as a team).

So far so good for the Chris Paul experiment in Golden State. (Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

The effort was indicative of the new, reduced role Paul will play after spending the bulk of his career as an upper-echelon star. If he continues like hes started, Paul promises to bring value to a Warriors team looking to compete in a loaded Western Conference. Its an encouraging start considering the question marks surrounding Pauls fit on a team with a projected Hall of Fame backcourt featuring Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson.

Head coach Steve Kerr sung Pauls praises for his effort off the bench.

Steve Kerr on Chris Paul’s acceptance to come off the bench: “It’s massive. Massive…When a vet, an All-Star shows that kind of sacrifice, it sets the tone.” pic./fzeS95uZ3Y

— Anthony Slater (anthonyVslater) October 30, 2023

“Its massive the way Chris has embraced everything here in the first month since hes been with us,” Kerr said of Pauls willingness to play a new role. “As you know, tonight was the first game of his entire career he didnt start. When I talked to him this morning about it, hes just, Yep, nodded his head and said, Lets go get em. Not even a big deal.”

Paul wont approach his career 17.9-point scoring average with the Warriors. The prime scoring roles are accounted for, and Paul doesnt shoot like he used to. But his passing game remains on point. One of the games all-time great floor generals, Paul projects to thrive in that role as the leading distributor in Golden State.

With Green sidelined by an ankle sprain in Golden States first two games, Paul started alongside Curry and Thompson in a three-guard lineup. He posted 14 points, nine assists and six rebounds in Golden States opening-night loss to the Phoenix Suns. Against the Sacramento Kings on Friday, Paul tallied 10 points, 12 assists and two steals in a road win. His seven assists off the bench against Houston led the Warriors for the third time in three games. Hes turned the ball over just five times in that span.

A six-time steals champion, Paul remains a difference-maker on defense and has six steals in his first three games in Golden State. His scoring efficiency, meanwhile, has room for improvement. A 36.8% career shooter from 3-point distance and a master of the midrange shot, Pauls missed all 11 of his 3-point attempts and is shooting just 34.3% from the floor. Both numbers are bound to improve.

It adds up to a promising start for an experiment that was met with widespread skepticism before it started. And it sounds from Kerr like Pauls eager to embrace his new role as he seeks his first NBA championship.

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