Los Angeles Clippers superstar point guard Chris Paul exited Friday night’s game against the Dallas Mavericks due to a separated right shoulder. Paul suffered the injury after being fouled by Dallas guard Monta Ellis with 6:43 remaining in the third quarter. The Clippers announced that Paul was out for the game minutes later.
Paul is a perennial MVP candidate and the engine that drives the Pacific Division-leading Clippers. Averaging 19.6 points and 11.3 assists per game in 2013-14, the 28-year-old floor general is playing at an elite level and it’s clear that the Clippers will go only as far as he takes them. Paul has missed just one game all season but hasn’t played in more than 70 regular-season games since his final season with New Orleans in 2010-11.
Doc Rivers just announced that Chris Paul is likely out three to five weeks at the least with a separated shoulder
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) January 4, 2014
The big question now is, where does this leave the Clippers?
The injury to Chris Paul, being arguably the best point guard in the NBA, will bring noticeable and inevitable change to the Clippers. Rivers will turn to reserve point guard Darren Collison in Paul’s absence, and Jamal Crawford is also capable of taking on some of the ball-handling duties. Collison, while averaging 8.1 points and two assists compared to Paul’s 19.6 points and league-leading 11.3 assists, clearly is not Chris Paul. The Clippers rely on Paul to run the show offensively as he is the main force behind one of the most successful pick-and-roll operations in the league. With the injury to Paul, the Clippers face the grim reality of their high-powered offense being with its leader for more than a while. Collison will now be required to run the show on a full-time while Paul beings the recovery process.
With the injury to J.J. Redick in addition to Paul’s, the Clippers will lose a total of close to 35 points and 14 assists per game with the two players out for the foreseeable future. The Clippers will have to fight hard without Paul to keep their head above water. If they are able to keep winning games while their superstar is in street clothes, then their high-seeded playoff aspirations should still be in place. The next month ahead for the Clips features a mixture of difficulty in games ranging from powerhouses such as the Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs to struggling teams like the New York Knicks and the Milwaukee Bucks. While CP3 is out, it will be important for the Clippers to take care of business against the struggling teams of the association.
All eyes now turn to Blake Griffin. Can Blake be the dominant player that has appeared in flashes this season while CP3 rides the pine? Well, he’s going to have to be. With Paul out, the next consistently viable scoring option will be Griffin. The good news, Blake has improved in both his low post and outside scoring ability this season and has, in addition, shown great confidence in both areas that will prove very useful during this tumultuous time. This season Griffin is averaging an outstanding 22 points and 10.2 rebounds per game while serving as the offensive catalyst in the post this season. It will be his responsibility to lift this team out of the depressive state and back into competitive mode.