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Chris Paul is ready for the Rockets’ next opponent

Paul will face last year’s champions or his former team

“Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute, an hour, a day or maybe a year. But eventually, it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever. I said, ‘Look, don’t cry to give up. Cry to keep going.’ Don’t cry to quit. You are already in pain. You are already hurt. Get a reward from it …”

Those words were heard during a video on Houston Rockets guard Chris Paul’s Twitter page on April 13 while he was also shown rehabilitating and playing again. The motivation for the prose was a 2018 season-ending left hamstring pull Paul suffered that caused him to watch the Houston Rockets blow a 3-2 lead in last season’s Western Conference finals against the eventual NBA champion Golden State Warriors. While Paul has reflected on his injury for motivation, his true focus is “on what is next” in hopes of reward from his past pain.

“I have to get back to work. I learned that at an early age,” Paul told The Undefeated in a recent phone interview. “It’s adversity. You see someone’s true colors not when things are going well but when it is hard. I have never had that ‘lay it down’ mentality. You get back to it. …

“You move on. As tough as it was at that point, you move on. You get past it.”

Paul and the Rockets, however, are still waiting to see whether they will get a rematch against the Warriors if Golden State can get past his former team, the Los Angeles Clippers. Game 6 of the series, which the top-seeded Warriors lead 3-2, is Friday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The Warriors failed to eliminate the Clippers on Wednesday night, losing 129-121 in Game 5 of the first-round series at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. While Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant begged to differ, fellow All-Star Klay Thompson said the team overlooked the Clippers.

“Yup. Start with me. I thought we were going to come out and win [Game 5]. But sometimes life doesn’t go as planned,” Thompson said.

Paul understands that sentiment.

Paul is projected to be a future Hall of Famer, but the one thing missing from the the 33-year-old’s résumé is a championship.

The nine-time All-Star has led the league in steals five times and assists three times. Paul is an eight-time All-NBA selection and has averaged 18.5 points, 9.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds in his career. The 2013 NBA All-Star Game MVP also ranks seventh all-time in league history in assists (9,181) and ninth in steals (2,122) and is the league’s active leader in both categories.

Paul quieted naysayers by making it to the West finals for the first time last season, the farthest he’s been in his pro career. The 14-year NBA veteran believes the Rockets have what it takes to reach the Finals. Paul said the keys to the Rockets’ success this season include “a lot of grit, a lot of fight” and “willpower.”

“We’re building. We got our core back. There is a will. There is a want. Communication, just talking, good, bad or indifferent. Pushing each other. That’s it,” Paul said.

Paul was traded by the Clippers to the Rockets in 2017 for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell, Sam Dekker, DeAndre Liggins, Darrun Hilliard, Kyle Wiltjer, $661,000 and a 2018 first-round draft pick. The only players remaining from that trade for the Clippers are three key players in their series against the Warriors: Beverley, Williams and Harrell. The aforementioned players combined for 74 points in Wednesday’s Game 5 for a Clippers team that is brimming with confidence.

“We don’t even pay that no attention. We don’t look back at it,” Harrell said of the Paul trade. “We don’t sit back and talk about, ‘Wow, we were actually in a trade for Chris Paul.’ He is what he is. We are what we are. It’s about playing within our team and keeping this series going.”

Paul’s health is key to the Rockets’ postseason success, as they are 15-5 with him and 0-2 without him since his arrival in 2017. The Winston-Salem, North Carolina, native has been healthy so far these playoffs, averaging 17.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.8 steals in 32.9 minutes per game in five contests against the Utah Jazz this postseason.

“I feel great. It’s a process to build. I get home. It’s a process. Eat dinner. Get up in the morning, get a lift in and get my workout in,” Paul said about his health.

Paul entered the NBA as a baby-faced selection by the New Orleans Hornets with the fourth overall pick in the 2005 NBA draft. Today, he regularly spends time mentoring younger players and recently went to see his buddy Dwyane Wade play his final NBA game. But even with the clock ticking on his career, a focused Paul won’t even dare to dream about what it would mean to him to finally be a champ.

“I’m in moment. I will worry about that when it happens. I am all about the process right now,” Paul said.

Marc J. Spears is the senior NBA writer for Andscape. He used to be able to dunk on you, but he hasn’t been able to in years and his knees still hurt.