SALT LAKE CITY – Well, this might be the last time Chris Paul tries to compliment opposing fans.
The Clippers star had no idea what he started with an offhand comment Tuesday night that Utah’s fans were “homers,” a term that has been picked apart by Salt Lake City radio hosts, and become a bit of a rallying cry among fans here as the Clippers and Jazz first-round series shifted to Vivint Smart Home Arena after the teams split the first two games at Staples Center.
One fan came brandished with a 6-foot cardboard cutout of Homer Simpson, while his friend carried a sign that read, “Just a bunch of homers.”
“It’s a good storyline, huh?” Paul said. “If somebody needed this storyline, at the end of the day it is entertainment I guess. I’m going to hoop.”
Paul, who was heavily booed when starting lineups were introduced, said he had not heard that the comment had caught fire until Friday morning.
“Since the game the other day (on Tuesday),” Paul said, “we didn’t have practice, took my daughter to gymnastics. That’s the last thing I’m worried about is what fire I’ve lit out here.”
Paul has clarified he meant that few fans in Salt Lake City support visiting teams, unlike arenas such as Atlanta. Misinterpreted or not, the remark added fuel to what was already one of the NBA’s most hostile environments.
As for that scene actually having much impact on the series, as is often discussed, Clippers coach Doc Rivers wasn’t buying it. He appeared in three playoff games in the same arena with the Clippers in 1992 when the Clippers lost in five games to the Jazz.
He didn’t remember the atmosphere having an impact.
“This is a great home court and one of the best crowds in the league,” he said, “but I’m just speaking personally, that never bothered me. I loved that.”
For Rivers, the return to Salt Lake City and the building that was formerly the Delta Center brings back another set of memories. That would be his 2003 dismissal as head coach of the Orlando Magic, when he was fired after a 1-10 start.
The final straw was a 90-88 loss to the Jazz on Nov. 17, 2003.
Rivers was reminded of that moment on the team bus this week, when Clippers general manger Dave Wohl asked, “Wasn’t this where you got fired?”
“Thanks, Dave,” Rivers shot back.
“I don’t think about that much,” Rivers said. “It was probably the best thing to ever happen to me if we’re being honest. I didn’t think it at the time but it probably clearly was the best thing.”
Through the first two games of this series, the Clippers have been spared the parade of DeAndre Jordan to the free-throw line. Fouling the center, a poor free-throw shooter, has become as much a rite of spring for the Clippers as the playoffs themselves.
It’s not that Jazz coach Quin Snyder is averse to the tactic, he said. Circumstances have just not dictated it.
“It’s a rational thing to think about,” he said, “and it’s not something that…