Blogtable: How will Clippers fare while Blake Griffin mends?
Each week, we ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day.
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Blake Griffin will miss 4-6 weeks to recover from arthroscopic knee surgery. What does this mean for the Clippers?
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Steve Aschburner: It means business as usual, more than it would for most teams, just because the Clippers have been here, done this. They went 30-15 last season in the 45 games Griffin missed with a torn quad muscle (and subsequent broken hand from punching the team’s former equipment manager). If this absence is approximately 20 games and the Clippers win 10-14 of them, they will be fine for a stretch run reacquainting themselves to Griffin’s presence. But remember, no slugging in rehab.
Fran Blinebury: It means that unless coach Doc Rivers can lift up a rock and find 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists per game underneath, the Clippers will likely find themselves scrambling to get back into the race for a top 4 seed and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs by the time Griffin returns.
Scott Howard- Cooper: Probably little. If the Clippers struggle in his absence, maybe it costs them a spot or two in the Western Conference standings, so maybe we will need to revisit this at the start of the playoffs if they end up with a bad first-round matchup. But it’s so early that they will have enough time to make up whatever ground was lost, as opposed to his late return last season. All that matters is that the problem goes away. If that takes the full six weeks, fine. It will be February. Plus, the Clips showed in 2015-16 they can play well without him. That doesn’t automatically mean the same thing will happen this time, but it does mean this is no reason to panic.
Shaun Powell: It means the Clippers should be OK in the short term because Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan are healthy and producing. Plus, this is the best bench LA has had since Doc Rivers came aboard. Also, remember they played better than expected last season when Griffin was hurt. It’s not unrealistic to think the Clippers can stay among the top four or five in the West until he returns. Then the key is to finish above the four-spot and avoid seeing the Warriors until the West finals (assuming both get that far).
John Schuhmann: It’s another opportunity to see how the Clippers play with more spacing around Chris Paul/DeAndre Jordan pick-and-rolls. Last season, they scored more efficiently in the 47 games that Griffin missed (108.0 points per 100 possessions) than in the 35 games he played (104.4). Since then, I’ve been in favor of a trading him for more depth, defense and shooting. I seriously doubt they’d make such a trade (my proposal would be Griffin to Toronto for Cory Joseph, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson, and maybe a rookie or pick), but the next 4-6 weeks will add more data to the discussion.
Sekou Smith: It means the Clippers, once again, get to discover how well deal with the adversity that always seems to come their way. They lost Griffin at about this same amount of time last season and handled it better than most expected. I don’t like to say it out loud, but the Clippers are used to this (or at least they should be by now). Chris Paul is a capable leader in the locker room and on the court, so there should be no drop off there. Getting the right production at Griffin’s spot will require coach Doc Rivers to work his roster manipulating magic for a second straight season and keep the Clippers among the Western Conference playoff elite.
Ian Thomsen: It means a top-two seed may be out the window, likely forcing them to upset both the Spurs and Warriors on the road in order to reach the NBA Finals. It means hoping that Griffin will be healthy so that they can unite for the last two months — as opposed to counting on him for a strong finishing kick. In the short term it means working Paul Pierce into the rotation at power forward, which is his likely role for the playoffs. For the long term? It raises yet more doubt about whether this group will ever be fulfilled. For a team already defined by bad luck, this feels like more of the same.
Lang Whitaker: It means it’s another season. It means nothing has changed for the NBA team with arguably the worst sustained luck over franchise history. But, considered another way, maybe it means things have turned around for the better? Maybe, at least for this year, the Clippers are experiencing their annual injury to a key member of their Big Three with a chance for the team to recover before the postseason? Plenty of time for the Clips to hit CTRL-ALT-DEL before the playoffs come around.
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