Well, this sucks. Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports reported a few minutes ago that Blake Griffin is scheduled to have knee surgery on his knee which will keep him out until some point in January. Shams is a big-time reporter with real sources. This is not a false rumor. Sadly, it’s real.
In the short term, the injury isn’t going to be catastrophic. The Clippers did well without Blake last season, and are even better equipped this season to handle his absence. The Clippers are likely to go small far more frequently— expect Wes Johnson to enter the starting lineup as power forward, or Luc Mbah a Moute to shift up a spot so that one of the Clippers’ reserve guards can join the starters. I think Wes is most likely, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Austin Rivers was moved to the first five either. Neither Wes nor Austin is Blake, but both should serve as reasonably competent stop-gaps for a month or so.
The bench situation is a bit more precarious. Prepare for an increase in minutes for Alan Anderson, and for the probable return of Paul Pierce to the rotation. Anderson has been solid enough in limited minutes so far this season, and while Pierce is completely washed up, the Clippers survived him playing a far “bigger” role last season. If neither of those options work out, Doc could also go for a more traditional bench lineup by giving Brandon Bass minutes. Bass has been inconsistent at best this season, but also hasn’t received a real chance to prove himself in the rotation. He can probably absorb 10-12 minutes a game just fine.
The more significant issue for the Clippers is that of Blake’s health long-term. He has had surgery on this knee before (though it was all the way back in 2008), and of course missed all of his rookie season with a severe injury to his other knee. There was also the long struggle with his left quad last season, an injury that seemed impossible for him to shake. Blake has clearly lacked explosiveness most of this season, and has looked uncomfortable attacking the basket at times. This knee issue could be why. On the other hand, he’s almost 28, and all the accumulated wear and tear along with simple aging could be taking its toll. Hopefully this knee procedure (a very minor one, apparently) helps him get some of that power and lift back. At this point, however, there has to be a real fear that more injuries and surgeries are yet to come, and that Blake might never regain that incredible athletic ability that made him a phenomenon in his first few seasons.
This knee surgery in itself is minor, a mere cleanup of sorts to try to get Blake healthy again. The Clippers, at least over the next 3-6 weeks, should not lose too much ground in the playoff race— they still have more talent than most teams in the league. The upside present is significant, which is that the procedure actually does make him healthy, and can transform him back into the superstar the Clippers need for the stretch run. However, it portends ill for the Clippers that Blake Griffin is out for an extended period yet again, and the cause being a faulty knee makes it even worse. Maybe all our fears are for naught, and the Clippers come out of this better than ever. But there is no way to spin this as other than awful, awful news.
Edit: Within two minutes of my posting this, Dan Woike of the Orange County Register said that Blake’s knee surgery isn’t confirmed yet. We will update as more news comes out.
Vertical Sources: Clippers forward Blake Griffin will undergo minor surgery on his right knee in coming days, return some point in January.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) December 19, 2016
Now word is that Blake Griffin's right knee surgery isn't 100 percent confirmed...knee has been bothering him, though.— Dan Woike (@DanWoikeSports) December 19, 2016
Update: The LA Times is reporting that the Clippers are “still deciding” on the surgery.