The Los Angeles Clippers today announced the results of an MRI on Chris Paul's separated shoulder. Paul was injured Friday night in Dallas, and while Doc Rivers speculated at the time that he would be out at least three to five weeks, the true extent of the injury could only be determined with an MRI. According to the team release:
Paul has been diagnosed with a Grade 3 AC joint separation and will be out up to six weeks. No surgery is required for Paul, who suffered the injury in the third quarter of the Clippers win over Dallas on Jan. 3.
A Grade 3 AC joint separation is, as you might suspect, more severe than a Grade 1 or 2 separation, but less severe than a Grade 4 or 5. (I didn't even go to med school!) It's a full separation, involving complete tears of the ligaments that hold the shoulder in place. The good news is that it does not require surgery, just rest and therapy -- the bad news is that it's a serious injury, and six weeks is probably a bit optimistic.
In a related move, the Clippers waived Maalik Wayns today. There's a couple of ironies in the Wayns waiving. In theory they waited until he was healthy to waive him so that they wouldn't have to guarantee his contract for the season, but they had to waive him to sign a point guard in Paul's absence, since Wayns isn't really healthy enough to play yet.
NBA teams can sign players to 10-day contracts starting today. The Clippers will look for a point who can help on a 10 day contract; they'll be loathe to sign anyone for the rest of the season. Of course, you can only sign the same player to two 10 day contracts before you have to sign them for the rest of the season, so weathering the duration of Paul's absence would require at least two different players on two different 10 day deals.
Given the big picture needs of the team for a better reserve big man, the Clippers certainly don't want to use a roster spot (or more of their dwindling available payroll than is absolutely necessary) on a point guard that would only sit on the end of the bench behind Paul and Darren Collison when everyone is healthy. Remember, Andrew Bynum will almost certainly be a free agent as of next week -- but whether the Clippers target Bynum or someone else, they need a roster spot and money for that player, and they can ill-afford to spend those resources on a journeyman point guard.
Six weeks takes the team to just after the All Star Break -- which is a convenient target for Paul's return. Six weeks exactly from now is the All Star Game itself, so we can safely assume that Paul is out of that. If he is back for the first game after the All Star Break (which would be against San Antonio coincidentally) he will miss 19 more games, 20 in all. That's a quarter of the season, but at least it's not more. The results in the first game without Paul were not great of course -- but the Clippers were never going to win that game, given the various factors that were already working against them. There are a lot of winnable games in the next 19, and the Clippers need to keep contact with a top four playoff seed during Paul's absence.