Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin will undergo surgery for a staph infection on his right elbow, the team announced Sunday, and his status will reportedly be reexamined after the All-Star Break.
But how early can the Clippers reasonably expect Griffin back?
Sources told ESPN L.A. that the 25-year-old could be out between two to six weeks, as the Clippers cling to the No. 6 seed in the loaded Western Conference. No official cause of the injury has been released, but many reports point out that Griffin has battled bursitis in the same elbow for the majority of his career, and he routinely has the elbow drained of excess fluid.
If Griffin misses only two weeks, he’ll sit out the rest of February which includes important games against playoff contenders like the No. 5 Dallas Mavericks, the No. 7 seed San Antonio Spurs, and two matchups against the No. 3 seed Houston Rockets and the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies.
The Sacramento Kings represent the only team on the Clippers' February schedule with a record below .500.
Should Griffin’s recuperation spill into or run through March, he could miss as many as 16 games, nine of which will be on the road. L.A. has an especially difficult 10-day stretch starting on Mar. 8, when they travel to play rival Golden State, and head home to meet Minnesota, followed up by visits to Oklahoma City and then Dallas.
Typically a staph infection is treated with a cocktail of antibiotics, but it can turn serious when it enters an open wound or cut. Called MRSA for short, the infection can be deadly if it’s left untreated.
Named to his fifth straight All-Star Game, Griffin leads the Clippers in scoring with 22.5 points and 35.3 minutes per game. He’s also morphed into one of the team’s best playmakers, ranking second with a career-best 5.1 assists per game.
The loss of their leading scorer for any length of time comes at a critical point of the season for the Clippers. The team has lost four straight, and five of its last six games, with only 6.5 games separating them and the No. 9 seed New Orleans Pelicans.
Unfortunately for Clippers head coach Doc Rivers, this is not the first time one of his players contracted a staph infection. Back in 2010, when Rivers was head coach of the Boston Celtics, several of his players dealt with staph.
In the meantime, Rivers will likely turn to a mix of forwards Spencer Hawes, Glen Davis, and Hedo Turkoglu to fill in for Griffin. Hawes, who signed a four-year deal with the team last summer, has earned the most court time so far this season, with 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds over 17.5 minutes per game.