Paul listed as day to day with hamstring injury

No one knew it at the time, but there was apparently a good reason the Los Angeles Clippers kept four point guards on their roster when the NBA season began last month.

Coach Vinny Del Negro and team executive Neil Olshey must have known they’d need some depth at the position. Now they do.

An MRI taken Sunday on guard Chris Paul was negative, but he’s listed as questionable for Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. game against the New Jersey Nets at Staples Center. The team said he’ll be evaluated on a day-to-day basis.

With backup point guard Mo Williams also listed as day to day because of an injured right foot and Eric Bledsoe still out after knee surgery last August, the Clippers are now down to one healthy point guard, Chauncey Billups.

Paul probably won’t play in Monday’s 12:30 p.m. game against the Nets. If Williams also sits, it means Billups will start at the point and backup Randy Foye will get his first start of the season. The first guard off the bench will probably be rookie Travis Leslie, who has logged just nine minutes in two games.

“We’ve got some nagging things going on,” Del Negro said. “We’ve just got to work through it.”

Paul had a season-high 33 points and six assists in the Clippers’ 102-94 victory over the Lakers, but he was forced to leave with 4:01 left in the game and was limping as he walked off the court. Afterward, he said he couldn’t remember when he suffered the injury.

“I’m so focused on everything else,” he said. “I just know it was some time in the fourth quarter.”

Billups has been a point guard his entire NBA career, but he was moved to shooting guard after the Clippers landed Paul in a trade with the New Orleans Hornets on Dec. 14. Billups has taken well to the role, but he said earlier this season that he still considers himself a point guard – and in fact, he occasionally brings the ball down court and starts the half-court offense.

But any absence by Paul will be significant. The seventh-year pro ranks among the league leaders in assists (8.4) and steals (2.78) per game and is averaging 18 points, second on the team behind Blake Griffin. Beyond that, he’s arguably the best point guard in the league and sets the tone for the offense.

His injury comes just as the Clippers, who are 6-3 and have played the fewest games of any team this season, begin their first tough stretch. They play back-to-back-to-back games this week – the Nets on Monday, on the road at Utah on Tuesday, home against the Mavericks on Wednesday – and play four times in five days.

They can at least be comforted by the fact they’ve beaten the Lakers and Miami Heat and are showing signs of getting better defensively and in their rebounding. They beat the Lakers 50-42 on the boards and totaled 17 offensive rebounds, including six by backup big man Reggie Evans. It marked only the second time this season the Clippers have out-rebounded an opponent.

That’s something to build on. But for the moment, they’re watching and waiting on Paul.