Already without one starter due to injury in power forward Blake Griffin, the L.A. Clippers announced Tuesday evening that their most important player will join Griffin on the injured list.
Point guard Chris Paul will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left (non-shooting) thumb. According to the team Paul will miss anywhere from six to eight weeks as he recovers from surgery. The procedure is scheduled for Wednesday. Paul left Monday’s game against the Thunder in the second quarter, with the original diagnosing being a sprained thumb.
Paul’s averaging 17.5 points, 9.5 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game this season, shooting 47.1 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from beyond the arc. Without both Paul and Griffin, the Clippers are just 2-5 this season but they expect the latter to return to the lineup by the end of this month. Paul missed seven games last month with a sore left hamstring.
Where Do the Clippers Turn Now?
There’s no replacing Paul, who remains one of the top point guards in the NBA and worked masterfully with center DeAndre Jordan in the pick and roll game. But the Clippers need to find someone to fill that spot in the lineup. Guard Austin Rivers has been in the starting lineup since the Clippers’ December 26 game against the Nuggets, and in ten starts he’s averaged 16.5 points, 3.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Also starting in that four-point loss to Denver was veteran guard Jamal Crawford, who has won NBA Sixth Man of the Year honors three times in his career. When Paul returned to the lineup it was Crawford who left the starting lineup, and he’s a player for head coach Doc Rivers to consider for the open spot for the time being. Raymond Felton, the point guard on the second unit, has started six games this season and is another possibility for the Clippers to call upon until they get their starting power forward back.
But in the tight race for home court advantage in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs, L.A. will have to make its run for a top-four seed without their most important player.
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