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Chris Paul Tops Great Era for NBA Point Guards

Feb 11, 2011 – 10:35 PM
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Tim Povtak

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- This is the fourth consecutive year that Hornets point guard Chris Paul will be going to the NBA All-Star Game, but it's not getting old yet.

It's only getting better.

"It's a huge honor, maybe now more than ever,'' Paul said Friday. "At my position, in the Western Conference, it really means something to be in that game.''

Paul will be starting for the West next weekend at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, further evidence that he indeed has become the league's premier point guard in what is becoming a golden era for point guards.

"To me, it's the toughest, deepest position in the league now,'' Paul told FanHouse. "Think about it. Steve Nash and Tony Parker didn't even make the All-Star Game. And those are great point guards.''

Paul will be getting his second starting assignment in the league's showcase event. He also started in 2009. He was voted in by the coaches as a reserve in 2008 and 2010.

Paul this season is scoring less (16.5 ppg) than he has in recent years, but he is carrying more of a load than ever for the Hornets, leading the NBA in steals (2.5 spg) while third in assists (9.7 apg). His assist-to-turnover ratio (4.04-1) leads the league.

He is the only player in history to lead the league in both steals and assists for two consecutive years.

"He really dictates the entire game for them. He has the ball in his hands all the time. They just rely on him on every play, creating everything,'' said Magic coach Stan Van Gundy the Hornets played the Magic. "If he's not the best point guard in the league, he's right there. I don't know where they'd be without him.''

Paul started the season under a cloud of controversy, after a summer when he questioned the team's commitment to winning, raising the issue of his pending free agency in 2012. There was speculation that he could be headed to New York, Orlando or any number of other destinations.

Yet he has enjoyed playing for new coach Monty Williams, excited about some of the personnel changes the Hornets made. The Hornets opened the season by winning their first eight games. They also won 10 consecutive games in January. They did come into Orlando on a four-game losing streak.

"Things have gone well for us. I'm happy. We've hit a rough spot lately, but that will pass,'' he said. "We're going to be fine.''

Paul had just 15 points and seven assists in the 99-93 victory over the Magic Friday. Against Phoenix and Nash last month, he become the first NBA player in two seasons to have a game of at least 26 points and 12 assists, without a single turnover.

Against Denver and Chauncey Billups, he was spectacular with 30 points, 19 assists and nine rebounds. Against Philadelphia, he had 27 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and seven steals, the first player in 36 years to reach all four of those statistical levels in a single game.

Paul has not been without his lowlights, though. He had only nine points and made only four of 15 shots in an overtime loss to New Jersey Wednesday. He also was fined $15,000 by the league Friday after verbally abusing a game official following the New Jersey loss.

"I go into every game knowing I'm going to get the other guy's best shot. It's exciting to me, and I think it brings out my best,'' he said. "Every night I want to leave the arena knowing I gave it my best. I don't have to have 25 points and 10 assists every night, but I have to be a leader for my team every night.''

Paul will be leading that Western Conference team next weekend, getting the start, while point guards Michael Westbrook (Oklahoma City) and Deron Williams (Utah) serve as reserves. Parker (San Antonio), Nash (Phoenix), Billups (Denver) and Jason Kidd (Dallas), all former All-Stars, didn't even make the team.

"Going into the season, no one in the West has any idea who the All-Star guards are going to be,'' Paul said. "Kobe Bryant is a given, but everyone else is up for grabs. There is some great competition. That's why it's great to be picked.''
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