Chris Paul has welcomed plenty of change into his life over the past year. Twelve months ago he kicked off a new partnership in a new city, suiting up next to James Harden 1,500 miles from his former home at the Staples Center. CP3 even ditched insurance his partner-in-crime Cliff Paul, teaming up with Oscar Nuñez to form a new State Farm dynamic duo in Houston. The new bond on the court clicked instantly, as Paul and Harden led the Rockets to 65 wins and the No. 1 seed in the West.
More change will come this season. On the floor, Paul and the Rockets will bring Carmelo Anthony to the Toyota Center, looking to bring out the best in the 10-time All-Star. When the action on the court settles, viewers at home are likely to see Paul in a trio of new StateFarmspots, debuting on opening night, Oct. 16. Paul will once again be joined by Harden and Nuñez, as well as a few new characters.
The Crossover spoke to Paul about the progression of his acting chops, integrating Anthony into the Rockets’ offense and the difficulty of winning in the Western Conference.
Michael Shapiro: How have you grown as an actor since you first started appearing in State Farm ads?
Chris Paul: I’m a lot more comfortable now. It’s just like on the court, growing from when I was a rookie. I’m always learning during breaks on set, asking questions, seeing how they shoot things different ways. I feel like I’ve developed pretty well.
MS: How would you compare your acting skills to your co-star James Harden?
CP: James has a lot of humor, man. James is funny. Honestly this campaign we have going now, he’s got some of the best lines, so he’s held his own for sure.
MS: You’re adding another star on the court this season with Carmelo Anthony. How do you think he’s going to fill in next to you and Harden? How much of an adjustment will there need to be?
CP: I think it will pretty seamless with the way that we play. Moving the ball, finding the open guy, getting guys shots, I think Melo is going to help a lot. Just with his passion and the way he plays the game he’ll fit right in.
MS: Did you have any conversations with Carmelo regarding sacrificing shots or adapting his style of play?
CP: It’s just basketball at the end of the day. I know what you’re basically trying to say, but I was new here, too. Last year was my first year in Houston, and you figure out ways to win. Anytime you play anywhere it’s about sacrificing, you do what you got to do. I think back to when I played on the USA team, one of the things Coach [Krzyzewski] told us was, “Don’t check your ego at the door, we need that. It’s what makes you great.” So for us, the only thing we’re focusing on is finding ways to win each night and showing what we can do as a unit.
MS: Where does Carmelo bring the biggest boost to your roster?
CP: I think for us it’s the confidence and his shooting ability. People don’t realize Melo is an unbelievable shooter, a knockdown shooter. He has a presence, he has a voice he’s used a lot in practice already, and we need that.
MS: Not being able to suit up for Games 6 and 7 against Golden State last year, how much did that wear on you during the offseason? How did you internalize the losses with you on the bench?
CP: I had to get back to work. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you, I didn’t feel sorry for myself. It’s the same thing every year regardless of how the season ends. I don’t look back and think, “Oh, would we have won?” It doesn’t matter. We have to prepare for what’s ahead.
MS: How does the intensity of this rivalry with Golden State compare to the battles you’ve had in the past, whether it be against the Rockets [as a member of the Clippers] or against the Lakers back in the day?
CP: I don’t know, I really don’t. I don’t dive into that stuff too deep. It was a battle and it was tough last year but we’re not really thinking like that. Right now I’m so focused on what we’re doing right now. We don’t pick up the season from [the Western Conference finals]. We keep worrying about [the Warriors], we’ll lose track of the goal for Oct. 17. Our motto since I’ve came here has been: “So what? What’s next?” and we’re going to continue that.
MS: With so many quality teams in the West, playoff positioning is going to be difficult. How does the talent currently in the West stack up to the other years in your career?
CP: I’ve been in the West my whole career, man. People don’t understand it’s always been like this. For more than half my career I’ve had to deal with Tim Duncan. Houston and T-Mac when they won 22 games in a row, remember when Dallas was really good? Memphis was damn good, there’s never been an easy road. This is a tough group of teams but it’s no different than anything since I’ve entered the league.
MS: What’s one thing y’all need to do to vault over Golden State and reach the first Finals of your career?
CP: We have to defend and rebound. It’s simple, but with the way our offense runs, it’s about being able to defend and rebound.