Blake Griffin hasn’t played in an NBA game since the calendar turned to 2016, and it will be a little longer before he’s able to suit up for the Los Angeles Clippers again. A hand injury will reportedly keep the forward out until sometime in April.
A source has told CBS Sports that Griffin is “really close” to making his return, but no matter how well his rehab is going, the former No.1 draft pick won’t play in the coming weeks. He injured his hand when he got into an altercation with the Clippers’ assistant equipment manager, and Griffin will have to serve a four-game suspension for the incident when he’s finally cleared to play.
The report comes one month before the start of the NBA playoffs, and L.A. needs a healthy Griffin if they hope to compete for a title. The Clippers are the No.4 seed in the West, and they are a long shot to defeat the Golden State Warriors or San Antonio Spurs in a series, especially if Griffin is not at 100 percent.
Initially, Los Angeles didn’t have much trouble with Griffin sidelined. The Clippers won their first nine games without Griffin, but they are just 8-7 in their last 15 games, totaling a 26-11 record since their star power forward last played on Christmas Day. Since Griffin suffered his injury, L.A. is 2-7 against the top three seeds in the East and West.
Griffin is averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 30 games this season. He was one of the league’s top players in last year’s postseason, totaling three triple-doubles. But the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference semifinals, and head coach Doc Rivers indicated before the season that the team could trade one of their top players if they have another disappointing playoff finish.
Griffin was involved in trade rumors before the deadline, and he’d likely be moved instead of Chris Paul or DeAndre Jordan. But Rivers denied reports that the Clippers were looking to trade Griffin this season, admitting the team would have trouble in the playoffs without the five-time All-Star.
"We don't look at the big picture right now because we're not good enough to do that without [Griffin],” Rivers told reporters after the Clippers lost in San Antonio by 21 points on Tuesday. Two days earlier, Los Angeles suffered a 24-point loss at home against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The trio of Griffin, Paul and Jordan has led the Clippers to the playoffs in four straight years, posting a winning percentage above .600 each season. The team, however, has yet to reach the conference finals.