The Los Angeles Clippers are without their floor general Chris Paul due to a shoulder injury suffered last Saturday night against the Dallas Mavericks. Paul exited the game in the third quarter and didn't return. It was later discovered that Paul suffered from a separated shoulder that required up to a six week absence from playing with his teammates.
That news could place the Clippers playoff chances and seeding in the Western Conference in serious jeopardy.
The team assembled by head coach Doc Rivers should be enough to withstand the storm over the next six weeks. Clippers recently signed former Laker Darius Morris to a 10-day contract that should give them some depth at the guard position while Paul is out.
Traditional the Clippers have been 10-10 without Chris Paul, and with 20 games on the schedule before the All-Star break, they'll have to go at least 13-7 or 11-9 in order maintain seeding in the Western Conference. Teams like Golden State, San Antonio, Portland will not fall off easy, especially as they continue to avoid major injuries.
Twelve of the teams the Clippers face are below .500, which should allow the them to gain some serious ground in the West.
With Darren Collison now running the point and Jamal Crawford continuing to play two guard, the Clippers can definitely open up the offense even more. Freeing up the wing spot where it's imperative that Jared Dudley gets open and knocks down shots.
Another bright spot for the Clippers was the return of spot up shooter J.J. Redick on Friday against the Lakers. Redick has missed several weeks due to a fractured right hand and torn ligament in his wrist. Redick finished with 19 points in his return.
Paul anchored the offense, however their focus has to be shifted to the defensive end, where DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin provide adequate service down in the post. Jordan will have to remain sharp and lead this group defensively in order for the Clippers to capitalize offensively. Jordan averages over 13 rebounds per game, 9 points and 3 blocks per game, which will be needed every night in Paul's absence.
Blake Griffin is definitely going to have to continue his up tempo aggressive style of play. Griffin has played his best basketball this season with exclamation mark on Wednesday, with a pride destroying dunk over Celtics center Kris Humphries. Griffin shooting has also improved with each game along with the level of confidence he displays getting to the free throw line. Griffin is shooting is an impressive 70% from the line, and over 53% from the field.
"No one can replace Chris. Not his voice. Not his game. Nothing! Everybody does things differently. We don't have any other guys that talk like Chris. We have to keep it together," said Griffin.
This past Thursday, the team worked out Hedo Turkoglu who may be apart of the roster. Head coach Doc Rivers and vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks are looking at the small forward for his ball handling skills, which could boost the offense in Paul's absence.
With the mentality of Rivers, this years Clippers know their identity, and should maintain the stance until their general returns to elevate them to the promise land -- known as the NBA Finals.