Chris Paul: “Everything Happens For A Reason”
LOS ANGELES – Chris Paul tried to remain positive.
He knew something wasn’t right the second his left thumb collided with Russell Westbrook, despite the initial X-ray results coming back negative. But he hoped for the best, right until the point Tuesday morning’s MRI results revealed a torn ligament in his left thumb.
“Even today at my MRI, my wife was as optimistic as you could be,” Paul said Tuesday night, speaking from his annual CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational. “But the news came back, and now I’ve got to move forward.”
Despite getting the news earlier that morning that he’d be out for the next six to eight weeks, Paul still kept his obligation. He hosted his eighth annual bowling event, wearing a red jacket and pants around a white shirt and donning a black hat that matched the black brace surrounding his left thumb, which would need surgery the next day.
Admittedly, receiving the results was tough. He tried to remind himself of a quote his mother and his late grandfather used to tell him.
“’Everything happens for a reason,’” Paul repeated. “Unfortunately but fortunately, the team has played without me before, so the fellas will hold it down and I’ll be ready when I’m back.”
Based on the six-to-eight-week timetable, that will likely mean holding it down for another 16 to 24 games, returning sometime in late February or early March. The Clippers already dealt without Paul for seven games earlier this season with a strained left hamstring, going 2-5 in those games while missing both Paul and Blake Griffin.
Austin Rivers, who attended Paul’s bowling event Tuesday night along with teammate Luc Mbah a Moute, said he’ll eagerly wait Paul’s return, while looking forward to getting Griffin back sometime soon following the forward’s Dec. 20 right knee procedure.
Rivers jumped into the starting lineup when Paul missed time earlier this season, and his strong play during that time earned him more starts once Paul returned, with the Clippers utilizing a small-ball lineup. The latest Paul injury will mean even more crucial minutes for Rivers, who’s averaging 16.5 points on 47.8 percent shooting from the floor and 42.3 percent shooting from long distance in 13 starts this year.
“We’re going to chug along,” Rivers said. “Good news is he’ll be back in no time, miss 16 or 17 games. We’re going to hold the ship down for him.”
As hopeful as Paul was that nothing was seriously wrong, his reaction immediately after the injury, abruptly walking back to the locker room, said it all.
It was eerily similar to the way he left Game 4 last postseason in Portland, when he fractured his right hand and was forced out of the remainder of the playoffs. Plus, Paul knows the feeling of a torn ligament in his thumb, having done so on his right hand at a Team USA training camp in 2012.
“I sort of knew something wasn’t right, but I don’t know,” Paul said to Clippers.com. “I guess I’ve been through this before. No pity party over here, just trying to get back.”
In the meantime, he tried to keep an upbeat attitude Tuesday night at his event, hosting professional bowlers Chris Barnes, Pete Weber, EJ Tackett, Tommy Jones and Sean Rash, as well as a host of celebrities, including DJ Khaled, actor Miles Brown, Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts, Broncos running back CJ Anderson and former NBA player Terrell Owens.
The event helps benefit the CP3 Family Foundation, whose mission it is to level the playing field for children by funding activities such as scholarship programs and food drives, as well as refurbishing Boys & Girls Clubs and adding technology to schools in need.
“The fact that he’s here in spite of everything going on says a lot about Chris,” Owens said.
The celebrities in attendance offered their support to Paul, with many assuming they wouldn’t see him on the lanes after finding out about the injury. But to assume Paul wouldn’t try to bowl one-handed would be underestimating his competitiveness.
“I’m going to do something at some point tonight,” Paul said. “At the end of the day, it’s my left hand that’s hurt, not my right.”
The CP3 PBA Celebrity Invitational airs Friday, Feb. 17, at 6 p.m. PT on ESPN. Not long after, Paul should be returning to the court, if all stays according to plan.
That means the Clippers should get him back before any final playoff push.
“No question, I’ll be back,” Paul said. “Ain’t no doubt about that.”