LOS ANGELES – Clippers point guard Chris Paul will need surgery to repair a torn ligament in his left thumb, likely forcing him out for the next six to eight weeks.
Paul, who will undergo surgery Wednesday, left Monday’s game against the Thunder with a sprained left thumb and didn’t return. Initial X-rays showed no break, but further tests Tuesday morning revealed the tear, which occurred after Paul jammed his left hand on Russell Westbrook’s right leg in the second quarter.
Paul went around a Joffrey Lauvergne screen while chasing Westbrook, who jumped into Paul while attempting to draw a foul on a 3-point attempt. Immediately after the play, a frustrated Paul walked straight to the locker room with head athletic trainer Jasen Powell.
Head coach Doc Rivers said he didn’t see the injury as it happened, but he knew the kind of injury Paul sustained from playing the position and seeing Paul favor his left hand after the play.
“That’s the one injury we get,” Rivers said Monday night. “You know the pain. I’m sure CP was thinking the worst at the time. He’s already got pretty good news with the normal X-ray being negative. You’ve just got to hope for the best.”
Unfortunately, the news wasn’t positive.
That was obvious to most of Paul’s teammates, who remember the point guard walking off the court in a similarly solemn fashion last postseason when he fractured his right hand in Portland.
J.J. Redick said the real worry set in when Paul didn’t return for the second half.
“I’ve seen Chris go off before and he tries to play,” Redick said immediately after Monday’s win. “I’m not assuming the worst by any means, but I recognize there’s probably a good chance he’s out a game or two, best case. “Worst case… we’ll deal with that.”
The procedure will be performed by Dr. Steve Shin, and Paul will continue to undergo treatment and evaluation by the Clippers’ medical staff.
Paul was averaging 17.8 points, 12.3 assists and six rebounds per game in January and had eight points, six assists and three rebounds in 13 minutes before the injury. Monday’s game against Oklahoma City was Paul’s fifth game back from a strained left hamstring, which forced him out for seven games.
The Clippers are 26-9 this year with Paul in the lineup and 2-5 when he’s out, though they were also without Blake Griffin throughout that time.
On the bright side on the injury front, Griffin’s picked up his rehab and is working out on the court as he reaches the beginning of his four-to-six-week recovery from a right knee procedure.
“Blake’s going to be back soon,” Redick said. “Next guy up, I guess. We’ve kind of dealt with this quite a bit lately, and we’ll continue to plug away.”
Rivers said Griffin “feels wonderful” and “looks like he’s explosive again” as he watches the power forward work out. There’s no set date yet for Griffin’s return, but it becomes even more crucial with the latest news on Paul.
Raymond Felton and Austin Rivers both saw their minutes increase when Paul was on the shelf with the hamstring strain, and that’s likely to occur again.
“It’s tough,” Austin Rivers said. “We just have to keep attacking and keep moving forward. I know we can keep this win streak going.”