Clippers' rookie power forward Blake Griffin, the No. 1 overall draft choice in June, has a stress fracture of the left patella, or kneecap, and could miss as much as six weeks of the season.
The news, released late Monday, came on the eve of the team's NBA opener, and the blow was a significant one, meaning the Clippers will be starting the season minus the fresh new face of the franchise and might be without him in the lineup for the first 20 games of the season.
Tests revealed the fracture and a second opinion later in the day backed up the results and conclusion of the first doctor.
A Clippers spokesperson said it is a non-displaced fracture. But the team will take a conservative approach, meaning Griffin could be out of action until December. On top of the fracture, Griffin is also dealing with tendinitis of the left knee and has been said to have been playing with some measure of pain.
He suffered the stress fracture in the team's final exhibition game against New Orleans on Friday, wincing after he came down on a dunk late in the third quarter.
It is the third injury Griffin has suffered since being drafted by the Clippers, though, in fairness, the knee problem could be called an extension of the second injury.
That occurred four days before training camp when Griffin collided with teammate Craig Smith and was forced to miss about two weeks.
Since returning, Griffin has been, at times, electrifying and managed to produce a series of highlight moments, some monster dunks that, unfortunately, included the one that further injured the knee Friday.
On Monday, Griffin left for treatment without talking to the media at the team's training facility. The body language and tone of Clippers General Manager and Coach Mike Dunleavy didn't strike a reassuring note, even though at the time he was saying Griffin and point guard Baron Davis (foot) would be game-time decisions tonight against the Lakers.
"The first [doctor] said, 'We know it's a bone bruise,' " said Dunleavy of Griffin. "There's some swelling. It just depends on the swelling going down, the comfort level, as far as him being able to play or not."
Why the second opinion?
"Because all players have a right to have a second opinion," he said. "You can have a second opinion any time you want.
"I think it's better. But I don't know if it's good enough to play," Dunleavy said after practice on Monday.
Davis did not practice, either, on Sunday or Monday. The good news for the Clippers was that veteran Marcus Camby (sprained left ankle) has been able to practice the last two days and is expected to get some minutes against the Lakers.
Still, the grim faces instead ended up raising more questions about the status of Griffin.
At least the Clippers are far better equipped than they were, say, a year ago to absorb the early blow of Griffin missing some games.
Dunleavy and assistant GM Neil Olshey had a strong summer, adding depth and creating cap space for the future, the eagerly awaited summer of 2010.
Chris Kaman, the longest-tenured Clipper, spoke about Griffin but also addressed the personnel changes on the bench.
"I hope he plays," Kaman said. "It gives us added depth in the post. Craig [Smith] really hurt them [the Lakers] in the last game, and DJ [DeAndre Jordan] did a good job.
"There's me, Marcus [Camby], DJ and Craig, if Blake doesn't play. We could put Al [Thornton] at the four spot. We have a great bench."
Swingman Rasual Butler, another newcomer, called this a "turnaround" season and he said the view from his old team in New Orleans was that the Clippers were capable of reaching the playoffs.
"We've got a deep team," he said. "I don't think back to backs will have any effect on us just because we have so much talent on our team this year. . . . Unfortunately, people were injured. That had plenty to do with them not having a successful year last year.
"God willing, that won't happen this year . . . that we won't be bit by the injury bug that bad."