PAUL: ‘I WOKE UP YESTERDAY AND WAS DONE FEELING SORRY FOR MYSELF’
LOS ANGELES – A little more than an hour before the Clippers took on the Orlando Magic in their first home game this season without him, Chris Paul, his right arm resting in an “L” against his torso, addressed the media.
The Clippers’ star sustained a Grade 3 AC joint separation in his right shoulder on Friday, an MRI confirming the injury when the team returned to Los Angeles two days later.
“It’s one of those situations where it could have been worse,” Paul said. “I woke up yesterday and was done feeling sorry for myself. I’ve got to approach the rehab and get back as soon as I can.”
Paul, who was averaging 19.6 points, 2.44 steals and a league-best 11.2 assists in 34 games, is expected to miss up to six weeks but the injury will not require surgery. It will, however, mean a grueling rehab.
“I always say rehab is a lot harder than playing,” Paul said. “Everybody’s like: ‘It’s going to be all right. You’re going to come back stronger and tougher and all that stuff.’ But right now it’s not all right, honestly. I want to play and I need to play and you just want to be out there to help your team.”
Paul’s desire to play was obvious in his frustration when the injury occurred in the third quarter of the Clippers’ 119-112 win in Dallas. He came around a DeAndre Jordan screen and appeared to be bumped from behind before falling awkwardly on his right shoulder. He stayed down for a few moments, surrounded by his teammates, before walking to the locker room with Clippers trainer Jasen Powell and spiking his mouthpiece to the floor in frustration with his left hand as he entered the tunnel.
On Monday, Paul described his state of mind as he was leaving the court.
Darren Collison and Blake Griffin talked about what the Clippers need to do on the court in Paul’s absence:
Collison: “I just think we’ve got to continue to move the ball better and play with a little more pace. I thought the first half [in San Antonio] we did a good job of executing, but it wasn’t the right play, if that makes sense. We were executing plays that were on one side of the floor. In the second half the ball was on both sides of the floor, it moved from side to side and we were having a little bit more movement.”
Griffin: “We’re going to look to pick it up a little bit more defensively and be a little more aggressive because we’re going to have to.”
“I was mad,” Paul said. “That’s why I slammed my mouthpiece and what not because I felt it went it when it happened. I could sort of hear it. And I knew that it was pretty significant. I think what made me mad, too, is that as athletes you do everything and you prepare, you do everything possible to try and not get injured. That’s all the preparation, that’s strength training, that’s everything and I think that was the most frustrating part.”
Point guard Darren Collison will start in Paul’s absence with Jamal Crawford serving as the primary backup and newly signed Darius Morris likely to see time in a pinch. Collison said he views the situation as an unfortunate part of the NBA.
“It’s never good when your main player goes out, [emotionally] for the team,” Collison said. “But this is the NBA, someone has to step up. I have to step up. Someone else on the team has to step up. This is a big challenge ahead of us. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen our careers. It happens all the time.”
Collison has done so before, starting 37 games in place of Paul, who sat out with a meniscus injury, when the two were teammates in New Orleans in 2009-10. The expectation, though, is not to place the burden of replacing Paul on one player’s shoulders, be it Collison or Paul’s All-Star running mate Blake Griffin.
“Nobody’s going to replace Chris,” Griffin said. “We shouldn’t try to replace Chris. We have to all step up and do our own part. We all do need to take it to another level, so we need to put that pressure on ourselves. But nobody needs to do anything that they’re not capable of.”
Paul says he hopes to be around as much as possible, including a desire to travel on the team’s upcoming seven-game road trip that begins next Friday.
“I’ll be there every game, sitting out there,” Paul said. “I’ll be there every game, every night, cheering and talking to the guys.
“If going on the trip prohibits me from doing anything rehab-wise, then probably not. But as long as I can do everything on the road then I want to be there. I want to be at every game because I feel like I can’t score a basket, but maybe my voice will help.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers envisions Paul remaining the same firey, vocal leader that he is on the court.
“I told him we’re going to have him coach the guards a little bit,” Rivers said. “That will be good for him to stay involved.”
Collison saw it that way, too.
“He’s feeling a little better from the situation,” the fifth-year guard said. “We’ve got his support. We know he’s competitive and wants to be out there, but sometimes you’ve got to look at it like he’ll probably come back even stronger. He’s played really well, MVP-like, up until now and when he gets back he’ll probably play any better.”