By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) - Chris Paul is heading to Houston to join James Harden, and the Rockets will soon have two All-Stars in the backcourt to lead their chase for a championship.
The Rockets have reached an agreement to acquire Paul from the Clippers in exchange for Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker and a protected first-round pick next year, a person familiar with the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The pick is only protected if Houston's pick lands in the first three of the 2018 draft, according to the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the teams haven't finalized the trade with free agency coming up on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Paul opted in for the last year of his contract so the Clippers could work on a deal.
The nine-time All-Star has averaged 18.7 points, 9.9 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals over his 12-year career, though he has been dogged with criticism in recent years for failing to help the Clippers get out of the second round of the playoffs. Los Angeles reached the postseason in each of Paul's six seasons with the team, but the Clippers were eliminated in the first round three times and in the Western Conference semifinals three other times.
Perhaps the most crushing playoff series loss of his tenure with the Clippers came to the Rockets in 2015. Los Angeles had a 3-1 lead in the conference semifinals before Houston won the last three games of the series to send Paul and the Clippers home early yet again.
The Clippers were eliminated in the first round the past two seasons and are likely to look much different next season. The Paul trade comes after Blake Griffin informed the team last week that he is opting out of the last year of his contract to explore free agency. J.J. Redick is also a free agent.
In Houston, Paul joins a team led by Harden that was eliminated by the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semifinals last season. With Harden's move to point guard last season, Paul's role will probably be a bit different than it has been in Los Angeles.
But he will add another scoring dimension in replacing Beverley in the starting lineup. Beverley received NBA defensive first team honors last week, but averaged just 9.3 points in his five seasons with the Rockets. He's the only Houston starter involved in the deal, with Williams and Dekker playing reserve roles last season.
Williams, the 2014-15 NBA Sixth Man of the Year, was traded to the Rockets from the Los Angeles Lakers in February. He averaged 14.9 points and three rebounds in 23 games for Houston after the trade.
Dekker, the 18th pick in the 2015 draft, missed all but three games as a rookie because of back surgery. The small forward was healthy this season and appeared in 77 games and averaged 6.3 points and 3.6 rebounds.
The deal was first reported by The Vertical.
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