Chris Paul’s injured thumb is not going to derail the Clippers’ championship aspirations. It’s not a season killer. It’s not a part of any curse or ominous sign of things to come.
Paul, who will undergo surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb Tuesday, was in all likelihood going to take several weeks off following Team USA’s gold-medal-winning performance in the Summer Games. His wife, Jada, gave birth to the couple’s second child last week, meaning the All-NBA point guard would already have been spending significant time with his family before getting back in the gym.
And it’s not as though the injury disrupted his brilliance in London. In eight games in the Olympic tournament, Paul never appeared limited, showing his usual array of dribble moves and Chris Paul-like plays. He was a distributor and a leader. And when winning time arrived in the fourth quarter of the gold medal game with Spain, he did what Clipper fans grew accustomed to in last year’s historic run: won.
The right thumb didn’t bother him when he used a step-back move to knock down a 3-pointer from straightway or when he hesitated on the wing and catapulted himself to the rim for a layup on the next possession. His thumb was wrapped in tape, sure. But it didn’t halt him from dribbling the shot clock down to near expiration with his team up nine, driving on Pau Gasol, and tossing in a near impossible reverse layup to ice the game.
All things considered, after a whirlwind eight months that consisted of 60 regular season games, 11 playoff games, a five-game exhibition schedule with Team USA, and eight more in London, the rest may do Paul well. In effect, he took the court 84 times between Christmas and the closing ceremonies (Aug. 12).
While there is no precise timetable for Paul’s return, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro sounded confident that the superstar would be ready to go before the team tips off Oct. 31 against Memphis, if not much sooner.
“[The surgery] was something we wanted him to get done now so it doesn’t bother him later,” Del Negro said. “He’ll be back before the start of the season.”
In a way, the timing of the surgery is ideal. Paul will be taking care of a nagging injury, gaining requisite rest, spending time with his family, and is still expected to be ready when the games count. And when Paul is lined up with Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Caron Butler, and the rest of his teammates to start the season, any mid-August talk of a Clippers’ demise will seem far too premature.