Clips' Griffin out 6 weeks with broken kneecap
Blake Griffin is about to add patience to his repertoire of basketball skills while his broken left kneecap heals.
It's a vital quality for somebody trying to turn around the Los Angeles Clippers.
The NBA's No. 1 overall draft pick will be out for up to six weeks with the stress fracture, likely delaying his debut until mid-December - and creating one more reason to believe there's a curse on this star-crossed franchise.
"It's disappointing, especially when it happened, but I'm not going to feel sorry for myself," Griffin said Tuesday at the club's Playa Vista training complex. "Everybody plays with a certain amount of pain, but it is a fine line, because you do want to take care of your body and make it easier on yourself."
Less than 24 hours before the Clippers' season opener against the Lakers on Tuesday night, Griffin learned he'll be watching in street clothes. The former Oklahoma star won't be allowed back into practice until the fracture has healed in several weeks.
Griffin wore shorts and no knee protection while watching the Clippers' morning shootaround. He will undergo bone stimulation and special blood treatments that will limit his activities for at least a month, and he plans to swim for exercise.
Coach Mike Dunleavy believes the process will be frustrating, but hopefully instructive for a power forward whose relentless work ethic sometimes leads him to rush his recovery time and even play through pain unnecessarily.
"He needs to be more honest with his body and with our medical personnel," Dunleavy said. "There are times when he's telling us he's fine, he's good, and he's feeling some pain. ... He understands better the potential consequences now. Give us the information, and we'll decipher it and figure out what you should play through, but I think he understands now."
Griffin was hurt during a preseason game last Friday, wincing in pain as he came down from a dunk late in the third quarter. He claimed as recently as Monday afternoon that he would play through the discomfort, but an MRI revealed the stress fracture Monday.
"He could play on it, but it won't get better," Dunleavy said. "Once that became apparent, there was no question: Let's shut it down. Him playing at a lesser level isn't going to do us much good."
While he's out, the Clippers will move on with a fairly solid roster. Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, Rasual Butler, Craig Smith and Al Thornton all are capable of playing significant frontcourt minutes.
Dunleavy isn't sure whether the broken kneecap is related to the bruise that Griffin sustained on the same knee in late September. That injury didn't keep him from playing in the preseason, when he averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds while appearing fully ready for the NBA challenge.
Griffin's short tenure with Los Angeles already has been dotted by injuries, starting with a strained right shoulder during summer league play in Las Vegas.
Clippers fans wish they could say they're shocked by the latest development, but few still doubt the power of the Clipper Curse.
Los Angeles has just two winning seasons in the last 30 years and just one playoff series victory since moving to town in 1984. The Clippers also have a long history of disappointing draft picks, including a pair of No. 1 overall choices that didn't dazzle.
Danny Manning played just 26 games in his rookie season in 1988-89 after tearing his knee ligament and undergoing surgery, though he eventually became an All-Star before fleeing town on his broken-down joints. Michael Olowokandi, the top pick in 1998, played just 45 games in his rookie season, and he wasn't much help even when healthy during five underachieving seasons.
Griffin insists his injuries and his franchise's past have nothing to do with each other.
"It's not something that requires surgery," he said. "It's not something where I'm going to be out for six months, half a year."
Griffin was the consensus college player of the year with 22.7 points and an NCAA-best 14.4 rebounds per game last season for the Sooners. Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, he announced he didn't believe in any Clipper Curse - and he hopes to prove he's right when he's finally healthy.
"It's a setback, but it's not major," Griffin said. "It's something that I can work through, and hopefully use this to work on other things to get better."