Blake Griffin will reportedly have “minor” surgery on his right knee, and he’s expected to miss three to six weeks. This is a bummer, and it will make the Los Angeles Clippers about 25 percent less exciting. Fortunately for the Clippers, though, they’ve been down a star before and they’ve always managed to stay steady. Here’s a look at why they should be able to survive this time:
Just do what worked last year
It’s not as if Los Angeles is venturing into the unknown. Griffin missed more than three months of last season, and in that stretch, the Clippers were sixth in offensive rating and fifth in defensive rating. That alone should be reason not to panic.
In the two games that Griffin has missed this season, coach Doc Rivers has tried Austin Rivers and Paul Pierce as his replacement in the starting lineup. Regardless of which way he goes — and he could alternate depending on the matchup — the main adjustment here is that the Clippers will lean on Chris Paul, J.J. Redick and DeAndre Jordan more.
From the day after Christmas until Griffin’s return in April last season, Paul averaged 21 points, 10.5 assists and 4.7 rebounds with a usage rate of 29.1 percent. Redick averaged 17.3 points with a true shooting percentage of 63.3 percent. Jordan averaged 14.2 points and 14.4 rebounds, shooting 70.1 percent and regularly flirting with 20-point, 20-rebound nights.
Asking these guys to produce exactly like they did last season might be a bit much. The basic approach, though, should not change at all, and it helps that the Clippers’ bench is better this time.
Three to six weeks isn’t so bad
The caveat here is that you never know when somebody is going to pull a Mike Conley and come back way ahead of schedule or pull a Jerryd Bayless and mysteriously stay sidelined. Last year, Griffin’s comeback fell in the latter category, but that was a completely different injury.
If we assume that the reported timetable is correct, then it’s a relatively minor thing compared to last season. There’s never a good time for an All-Star to have a knee injury, but think about it this way: It’s much, much better to deal with this now than later in the season. The Clippers’ primary goal is to be healthy in the playoffs, especially after both Griffin and Paul got hurt during the first round last April.
While the Clippers are well equipped to handle an injury like this, they do not want to overload Paul, Redick and Jordan during the regular season. If Griffin comes back in January, then that shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
The schedule is not scary
Take a look at this, via CBS Sports’ Matt Moore:
The Clippers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to their strength of schedule, but this upcoming stretch isn’t bad at all. Of the 18 games before they face the Golden State Warriors on Jan. 28, only four are against teams that are .500 or better.
Los Angeles is perfectly capable of losing to these teams — it has already lost to the Brooklyn Nets once, the Indiana Pacers twice and it is coming off a 117-110 loss to the Washington Wizards on Sunday — but it should not do so regularly. Based on schedule alone, the Clippers could very well still be in the West’s top four by the time Griffin is available to play.