CHRIS PAUL OUT WITH BRUISED RIGHT KNEECAP

MEMPHIS – Superstar point guard Chris Paul will not play Monday night against the Memphis Grizzlies because of a bruised right kneecap.

“It’s just a long season and the smart thing to do right now,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We’ll just let him get some therapy, get some rest and make sure he heels up properly. Every day it will be kind of a game-time decision, but tonight he’ll be out.”

Eric Bledsoe is expected to start for the Clippers (28-9), who enter the game second to the Oklahoma City Thunder for the best record in the NBA.

“We’ve got to do a good job helping [Bledsoe] a little bit, too,” Del Negro said. “Guys have got to make shots and talk and we’ve got to put him a position to be successful. He’s got to control the tempo, control his turnovers and run the team. It’s nothing he’s not capable of doing.”

Paul did not participate in shoot-around earlier in the morning, instead watching from a courtside seat wearing a black tracksuit and backwards Clippers hat.

“I want to play. No question, I want to play,” Paul said, sounding somewhat dejected. “If I feel like I hinder the team then I won’t [play].”

The Clippers had a record of 3-3 when Paul did not play last season. He has yet to miss a game in 2012-13.  

Paul, who is listed as day-to-day, sustained the injury when he bumped knees with J.J. Redick tracking a loose ball near the Clippers’ sideline in Saturday’s loss to the Orlando Magic.

“During the game the adrenaline is running and everything like that and I came back into the game,” Paul said. “I remember Jameer Nelson whispered to me, ‘That thing’s going to hurt in the morning.’ And he was right.”

Paul called it a “scary” moment when the injury occurred, but results of an MRI after Saturday’s game came back negative. He said there is still swelling in the knee.

In 37 games this year, the surefire All-Star has tallied 16.8 points, 9.7 assists and a league-best 2.62 steals per game. He’s been particularly dominant in the last four games, totaling 54 assists with just nine turnovers.

Despite being out of the lineup Paul said he and Chauncey Billups, who will miss his 20th game in a row with peroneal tendinitis in his left foot, will be there to offer vocal support.

 “I’ll be right there on the bench just like [Billups]. Just like when I missed a couple of games last year. There for vocal [support] and tell guys what I see. I think it will be huge for me and Chauncey to be there for E-Bled (Bledsoe).”

Bledsoe is the middle of a career year as a reserve, including notching a season-high with 17 points on Jan. 5 against Golden State. He’s also widely regarded as one of the league’s most dynamic defenders and matched up well with Grizzlies’ point guard Mike Conley during last season’s playoffs.

Asked what will change about his role as the starter Bledsoe said, “Nothing. I’ve still got to come in and be aggressive and just play my game. Nothing changes my role on the team.”