— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) December 26, 2015
The Los Angeles Clippers announced on Saturday morning that power forward Blake Griffin suffered a partially torn left quad tendon on Christmas night.
The injury happened in the 1st quarter of the Clippers’ 94-84 win at the Lakers, a game in which Griffin struggled mightily (13 points, 6/17 FGs, 6 turnovers). An MRI on Saturday morning revealed the injury, and Griffin did not make the trip to Utah, where the Clippers play tonight against the Jazz.
The Clippers say that Griffin will be re-evaluated in two weeks. That timetable sets Griffin up to miss a minimum of seven games (at Utah, at Washington, at Charlotte, at New Orleans, vs 76ers, at Portland, vs Hornets). It is a relatively light stretch ahead for the Clippers, as the Hornets are the only teams as of Saturday that are above .500. The earliest Griffin would be able to return under this timetable is Sunday, January 10, vs. the Pelicans.
Griffin, who leads the NBA in 2-point field goals made and attempted, has had issues with his left leg before. He missed his entire rookie season (2009-2010) due to a broken left kneecap suffered in the preseason, and he missed the 2012 Olympics due to a torn meniscus in his left knee suffered in July 2012. Last season, Griffin missed 15 games due to a surgery to remove a staph infection in his right elbow. The Clippers went 9-6 with Griffin out, and C DeAndre Jordan took advantage of Griffin’s absence to average 14.9 points and 18.5 rebounds per game in 37.6 minutes per game. These games will be the first Griffin misses this season.
It is also important to note that Clippers SG J.J. Redick had a similar injury suffered in training camp before the 2013-2014 season. Redick missed 2 weeks with that injury but was ready to start the season on time – a season marred by other injuries that limited Redick to only 35 games.
Griffin leads the Clippers in points (23.9 per game) and minutes (34.9 per game) and is 2nd in rebounds (8.7 per game) and assists (5.0 per game). His injury thrusts power forward Josh Smith back into relevancy. Smith fell out of the rotation this week, picking up his 1st two DNP-CDs of the season, and he has struggled with career-lows in every category. Specifically, Smith is playing a career-low 14.6 minutes per game and shooting a career-low 39.5 percent from the field. If this situation sounds familiar, it should. Last season, Spencer Hawes fell out of favor with the Clippers, but he started each game that Griffin missed.
Smith has played more than 20 minutes in a game once all season, but now is as good a time as any for him to show his value. As for Griffin, the initial injury isn’t the biggest problem. It’s whether or not his body is breaking down for a team that is 17-13 after Christmas.