Some Thoughts on the Chris Paul Injury


Jan 3, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul (3) falls to the court while dribbling past Dallas Mavericks shooting guard Monta Ellis (11) during the second half at the American Airlines Center. Paul sprained his right shoulder and did not return to the game. The Clippers defeated the Mavericks 119-112. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I was unable to see the Chris Paul injury live, but just reading about it sucks.

Now he’s out for three to five weeks with a shoulder injury and suddenly things don’t look too good for a Los Angeles Clippers team that was sure this season would be unlike any other in the teams history after the additions of Doc Rivers and J.J. Redick in the offseason.;

First and foremost, Paul’s injury leaves a gaping hole at the point guard position. No one on this roster is talented or skilled enough to replace the production and other intangibles that Paul brings to the floor every night. Prior to injury, Paul was having his best season since 2008-09, averaging 19.6 points, 11.2 assists, and 2.4 steals per night while posting a PER of 27.6. Darren Collison will be his replacement in the starting lineup, a la New Orleans in 2009-10, and while he’s played extremely well over the last few games, he’s no Paul. That’s not a bad thing. Paul’s the best point guard in the NBA by a lengthy margin. The problem is making up for all that Paul is accountable for in Doc Rivers offense: scoring, creating for teammates, defending point guards, making something out of nothing when the pick-and-roll is defended well, etc. etc.

Then comes to implications toward the playoff race. At this moment the Clippers are fourth in the Western Conference at 23-12. They are four games from the top seed in the West (Portland) and three games from eight in the West (Dallas). With no Paul, it’s expected for this group to lose games they’d probably have won with him in the lineup. That’s what is expected when a team loses a top-3 player. Three to five weeks isn’t enough time to completely slip out of the playoff race, but there’s a chance that this time is fighting it’s way up from the bottom by the time Paul returns (projected to be back prior to the All-Star Break).

With no definite date of return I picked a random date on the fourth week from now (January 30th) (the urge for stars to return before needed may occur here due to Paul’s “will to win”) and checked out the schedule to see how tough it’s a bit hard to figure out how well the Clippers can perform in that timeframe. Of the 14 games from here until the 30th, the Clippers play four Western Conference teams (SAS, DAL, LAL, GSW) and 10 Eastern Conference teams. Of the East teams, only one team, in Indiana, has a winning record. The Wizards, Pistons and Raptors all stand out from as they’ve played a bit better than what you’d expect from an under-.500 team, but the other teams (CHA, CHI, BOS, ORL, NY, MIL) are what they are.

The Clippers are still a good team, but this stretch is what they may need to take the next step. It’s often been said that Paul does too much for this team. Without him Blake Griffin‘s aggressiveness will increase ten-fold (hopefully Rivers chooses to use him in a way similar to how the Grizzlies use Marc Gasol), Jamal Crawford’s scoring load will increase, and the rest of the players who have been average will step up. That’s, at least, what you hope happens when a star goes down.

Things will get easier for Collison and co. once J.J. Redick returns from his wrist injury. Without him the offense has struggled. He’ll make life simpler due to his abilities to create off -the-dribble and his impact from floor movement won’t get the due justice if I attempt to put it in words.

And while it may be on a few minds, Jacob Greenberg of The Diss put Paul’s injury into perspective from a flopping standpoint.

We all know that Paul tends to exaggerate contact from time to time. Some point toward his nature to want to win bad, but to the plain eye it’s flopping. You’d have to wonder if Paul will continue to flop after his return from injury. Not to say it’s a make or break thing, but flopping is a lot of what Paul does when it comes to creating contact to get to the line on the offensive side of the ball and forcing offensive fouls on the defensive end.

In a way, this feels like the ultimate test for Doc Rivers. He’s the coach the honed in on during the offseason. His experience to adjust without a top star will be on full display here.

Can he keep the team afloat without free-falling without Paul? You’d like to hope so, but in basketball the players have a lot to do with everything. Hopefully they can compete without looking like a lost cause.