HOUSTON (AP) — Chris Paul came off the bench for the first time in his NBA career Sunday.
Paul entered Golden State’s game at Houston as a substitute, checking in with 6:58 left in the first quarter. He started the first two games of the season but was out of Sunday’s lineup because Draymond Green — who had been sidelined — returned from an ankle injury.
“It’s whatever I’ve got to do to help our team win,” Paul said. “So if that means this, if it means not finishing some games or whatnot, you know, if you get a chance to play long enough in your career, there’s things that’s going to change, there’s things that’s going to be different and I’m here.”
Since the NBA began tracking games started in 1982, no player had appeared in more games and started them all than Paul had entering Sunday. Including playoffs, Paul started the first 1,365 games of his NBA career.
“It was definitely different,” Paul said of coming off the bench. “But at the end of the day it’s basketball.”
The question — would Paul start or not? — has followed the Warriors since they acquired the 12-time All-Star and member of the NBA’s 75th anniversary team this past summer. Paul has said he wants to start; Warriors coach Steve Kerr has said that he considers Golden State a team that has six starters.
The 38-year-old Paul — the NBA’s third-oldest player to appear in a game this season, behind only the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James and Philadelphia’s P.J. Tucker (who is just one day older than Paul) — had 24 points and 21 assists in Golden State’s first two games of the season.
Paul had eight points and seven assists in 27 minutes of Golden State’s 106-95 win Sunday.
“It’s massive the way Chris has embraced everything,” Kerr said. “He just nodded his head and said: ‘Let’s go get ’em.’ Not ever a big deal. When a vet, great player, All-Star shows that kind of sacrifice it just sets the tone for the whole team.”
Green spoke of the value of having a player of Paul’s caliber to come in when Stephen Curry is out of the game.
“I think that will be an advantage that we’ll have,” Green said. “When you’re talking replacing Steph Curry with Chris Paul, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
With Paul’s streak now over, Milwaukee’s Damian Lillard — who played in the 833rd game of his career on Sunday night — now has more starts than any other active player without an appearance as a reserve. Dallas’ Kyrie Irving is next on that list, with all of his 748 NBA appearances being starts. The totals for Lillard and Irving also include one game in the NBA’s play-in tournament.
Including playoffs and two play-in games, James was a sub for two games of the 1,707 he had played entering Sunday. Phoenix’s Kevin Durant has been a sub three times in his 1,156 games. Tim Duncan was a sub in three games out of 1,643 in his Hall of Fame career. Karl Malone didn’t start five of the 1,669 games he played. Shaquille O’Neal was a sub in 12 of his 1,423 appearances, and even Michael Jordan didn’t start a game on 33 occasions in his career.
The last time Paul didn’t start a game that counted was in the 2008 Olympics, when Jason Kidd and Kobe Bryant made up the U.S. starting backcourt. Before that it was on Dec. 13, 2004, when he was slightly late for the team bus and benched for the first 4 minutes of Wake Forest’s game against Temple. Paul started the last 25 games of his college career, and then every game of his 19 NBA seasons until Sunday.
Paul was asked if he liked coming off the bench.
“I don’t hate it,” he said. “It ain’t a matter of liking it. I like the fact that we won. That’s the most important thing.”
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