According to a release from the Clippers, Chris Paul is set to miss 6-8 weeks of games following a surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Paul suffered a sprained left thumb in Monday night’s game against Oklahoma City on a normal defensive play when Russell Westbrook attempted to create contact to draw a foul. He left the game immediately and did not return, but the extent of the injury was not known until Tuesday, when an MRI revealed the torn ligament. Paul will have surgery Wednesday morning, January 18th, to repair the ligament.
The January 18th surgery date, combined with the 6-8 week recovery timeline, seems to set Paul up for a return between March 1st and 15th. If Paul is at the early end of that range and he plays in LAC’s March 1st game against Houston, he will have missed 16 games. If he doesn’t return until the Clippers’ March 16th match-up with Denver, he could miss up to 25 games. Paul missed 7 games in December with a left hamstring sprain, so this thumb injury makes a 60-game season an impossibility for CP3. Any time your team’s leader plays less than 60 games, your team is going to struggle.
In the meantime, the Clippers will have to turn to their other guards for offensive creation. J.J. Redick actually suffers in Paul’s absence because Redick relies on Paul to create offense for him, but Raymond Felton, Austin Rivers, and Jamal Crawford could all step up to help the Clippers during this stretch. Felton is a solid veteran guard who started 31 games for a playoff Dallas Mavericks team last year, and he was 7/7 from the field for 15 points against the Thunder. Rivers has excelled this season, scoring 11 points a game and shooting 44% from the field and 39% from the deep. He’s stepped up with big nights in recent weeks for the shorthanded Clippers. The weak link has been Jamal Crawford, who is shooting under 40% from the field and under 32% from beyond the arc. The Clippers leaned on Jamal heavily last season in Blake Griffin’s absence, and while less than efficient, his offensive abilities helped the team survive a long stretch without their leading scorer. They’ll look for him to get back on track in coming weeks to help them through this rough patch.
Blake Griffin will also need to step up in a huge way as soon as he can get healthy. Griffin has shown flashes of being a reliable #1 option during his career, but this will be his biggest test yet: a two-month stretch where the team needs him to step up in Paul’s absence and carry them to victory after victory. If Griffin posts his normal 20 point, 8 rebound, 4 assist line, he’ll help the team but fall short of maximizing his potential. But if he can step up and turn in a stretch where he averages 26 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists (similar to his offensive production in the 2015 playoffs, except without the 13 rebounds a game), then he’ll prove himself to an audience that’s beginning to doubt him.