The Clippers have announced that Blake Griffin has a staph infection in his elbow that will require surgery. The surgery will be performed in Los Angeles on Monday (tomorrow) and Griffin will be out at least through the All Star break,
The team is riding its first three game losing streak of the Doc Rivers era and in the middle of a brutal stretch of games -- they can ill-afford to be without Griffin for long. Griffin is the team's leading scorer and second in rebounding and assists. When Griffin is in the game the offense invariably goes through him at some point -- and when he's not in the game, as will be the case for a time here -- it's rarely pretty.
The Clippers have three games before the All Star break -- in a few minutes in Oklahoma City, tomorrow in Dallas and Wednesday against the Rockets back at home when their eight game Grammy trip finally ends. Without Griffin, they could easily lose all three (which would leave them at 2-6 on the Grammy trip).
The good news though is that this hardly qualifies as "elbow surgery" a term which technically applies but makes it sound pretty serious. (The team's own press release was titled "Blake Griffin to Undergo Surgery" -- that didn't look good in my email this morning.) The fact is there's nothing structurally wrong with Griffin's elbow -- this is an infection that needs to be removed. So when the team says that he'll be reevaluated after the All Star break (the game is one week from today) they're not being unrealistically optimistic -- Griffin really could be back for the February 19th game against the Spurs in Los Angeles. But we'll have to wait and see on that. Griffin has long played with issues with the elbow, including a bursa sac. When asked what he thought about it, Doc Rivers sounded an ominous tone saying "It could be awhile."
Scary part of injury? The unknown, Rivers said. "It could be awhile."— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) February 8, 2015
Meanwhile, can the rest of the team have any success in three games without him? The Clippers bench has been a weakness all season, and the recent back issues for J.J. Redick have only exacerbated the problem. Spencer Hawes will slot into the starting power forward position in Griffin's absence, and the burden on Chris Paul to generate offense will increase enormously.
The team responded surprisingly well to Paul's own more serious injury last season. The old adage is that a star's absence provides an opportunity for others to step up, and that was certainly true a year ago when Griffin came into his own while Paul was out of the lineup. Can DeAndre Jordan take another step forward? Can Hawes begin to justify the excitement that his signing originally generated? Can Glen Big Baby Davis step up his game? Now is the time for the bigs on the roster to have a bigger impact.
Even if Griffin is truly gone just three games, the Clippers, already in sixth place in the Western Conference standings and tied in the loss column with San Antonio, will probably find themselves in seventh place heading into the break. It's not where they expected to be -- but if Griffin is indeed healthy coming out of the break, if he only misses three games, then perhaps they will consider themselves lucky as they begin a final push towards the postseason