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The Warriors promote "comfort" with Chris Paul at the season opener

Wednesday, 25 October 2023 11:43 Sport

SAN FRANCISCO -- Chris Paul sauntered through the center of the court, sizing up his much larger former teammate Yusuf Nurkic. With two quick dribbles, Paul blew past the 6-foot-11 center and headed for the rim.

He pump-faked once, got Josh Okogie off his feet, and made a layup while drawing contact. "CP3!" chants echoed in Chase Center as he headed to the free-throw line.

Given Paul's history with his new franchise and its fan base, it was a strange sight.

"I couldn't help but laugh," Paul said. "It was the first time."

In his first official game as a Warrior, Paul finished with 14 points on 4-of-15 shooting, nine assists, and six rebounds in Golden State's season-opening 108-104 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Tuesday night.

"I'm very excited," Paul said. "Tonight we did a lot of good things, a lot of not-so-good things, but freedom -- threes on pull-ups that I had the opportunity to take -- when you're playing with guys who shoot as well as others. Steph [Curry] and Klay [Thompson] consistently ... you have a lot more space."

While Paul's past with the Golden State, specifically during his time with the LA Clippers, makes for a surprising marriage, there is value on the court from it.

Paul particularly remembered one play that illustrated it: he broke free from a screen, tossed the ball up, and sprinted to the corner to make an open three.

"I looked at Steph and said, 'That's your [butt].' That's what he usually does," Paul said. "We've played against each other so much that we know how we can complement each other."

There are aspects of Paul's game that the Warriors are grateful for, like how he drew a foul on Devin Booker for a four-point play in the third quarter.

Last year, Paul convinced Jonathan Kuminga to foul him and draw a 90-foot away-from-the-basket foul.

"We've already joked about it a lot," Curry said. "Obviously, it's smart basketball, and you have to play the game. But it's nice not to look at the refs and say, 'Hey! He's on our team now.'"

But beyond those small moments of familiarity, there was an overarching understanding of how Paul can impact the Warriors.

A source told ESPN that Paul's primary role will be that of the second-unit general manager, regardless of whether he starts or not. That was evident in a monstrous third quarter by the Warriors, who outscored the Suns 40-19. Paul scored 10 of his points in the quarter.

"Chris is so good at controlling the game, making big shots when they're needed, [and] having nine assists -- he gives us another dimension," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "We'll start to figure out little nuances and actions we want to use with him. But he's just a great player."

There's hope that Paul's presence on the floor with the second unit will help cut down on turnovers, something that plagued Golden State on opening night, as the Warriors committed just 11 turnovers compared to an average of 18.2 in the preseason. His presence will also help organize lineups composed of younger players.

"That's who he is as a player -- understanding the tempo and how things are going, [having] the wherewithal on the floor as a point guard to know when to keep the pressure up, slow it down, which play to make," Curry said. "We all trust him in making the right decisions and the right plays. That comfort is there now, and it's only going to grow."

While the first game of the Warriors' regular season demonstrated an already-established comfort and chemistry with Paul, it was also evident that Golden State has a long way to go.

On Monday, Kerr said the Warriors will need a few weeks to play at the level he envisions. The absence of Draymond Green, who is out with an ankle sprain, as well as his eventual return and figuring out starting lineups and regular rotations, add to the Warriors' to-do list.

"It's just the first look at the regular season. It usually takes 20-25 games to really figure out your team and feel what actions you need, what combinations you have," Kerr said.

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