Rudy Gay won’t be the only marquee player who will miss Monday night’s Western Conference showdown between the Los Angeles Clippers versus the Memphis Grizzlies at 7 in FedExForum.
During the Clippers’ morning shootaround Monday, team officials announced that point guard Chris Paul will likely sit out the game after a contusion to his right knee he sustained after bumping knees with Orlando’s J. J. Reddick in the fourth quarter of their game Saturday in the Staple’s Center.
The Magic eventually upended the Clippers, 104-101, and against Memphis in a rematch of last year’s first-round Western Conference best-of-7 playoff series, L. A. will be looking to avoid a two-game losing streak. Owners of the NBA’s second-best record behind Oklahoma City, the Clippers have won 20 of their last 23 outings, including manufacturing a franchise-best 17 consecutive wins before witnessing their undefeated streak end in a 92-78 New Year’s Day loss at Denver.
While team officials have said that Paul will be sidelined for Monday’s game, the seven-year veteran still remains hopeful he will play. Sporting a black jobbing suit and ballcap, Paul did not participate in the one-hour shootaround, but complained of slight soreness to his knee.
“It’s getting better, slowly but surely,” Paul told reporters. “I don’t know yet. If a miracle comes through…I mean, I want to play. No question, I want to play. But if I feel like I’ll hinder it, I won’t play.”
Without Paul — who registered 12 points in 4-of-10 shooting in a 101-92 win against Memphis in the season-opener for both teams October 31 — in the lineup, knocking off the Grizzlies for a third consecutive time dating back to last season certainly will take some doing. Paul is second on the team in scoring (16.9 points per game), and first in assists (9.7), steals (2.62) and minutes played (33.4). Most importantly, the five-time All-Star is credited for bringing respectability to a franchise that was among the NBA’s worst for years before he was acquired in a three-team trade by the Clippers in December 2011 from New Orleans.
“It’s a little swollen,” Paul said of his knee that he had wrapped during Monday’s shootaround. “I hope I can get it down by game time. During (Saturday’s) game, your adrenaline is running and everything like that. And when I came back in the game, (Orlando point guard) Jameer Nelson whispered to me. He was like, ‘It’s going to hurt in the morning.’ He was right.”
If Paul can’t go, second-year guard Eric Bledsoe, who averages 8.4 points and 18-plus minutes per game, will likely replace him for his first start of the season.
Like Paul, Gay, the Grizzlies’ franchise player and leading scorer, will miss tonight’s game. Gay, who has been the subject of trade rumors in recent weeks, is home in Baltimore to attend the funeral service of his grandmother.
Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins said after Monday’s shootaround that Wayne Ellington will replace Gay in the lineup. Shooting guard Tony Allen, meanwhile, is expected to see valuable minutes at small forward.
“Well, with Rudy out, we don’t have a three (small forward),” Hollins said. “With Rudy and Quincy (Pondexter) out (MCL sprain), we don’t have long, athletic, wing players. It’s a business. You just go with the group you have out there and try and play well.”
The Clippers eliminated the Grizzlies in seven games in last year’s opening round of the playoffs before being swept by San Antonio in the Western Conference semifinals.
Paul averaged 17.6 points in 11 postseason outings last year.