Clippers lose Griffin for the season

Rookie, sidelined since the preseason, will have knee surgery.

January 14, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Reporting from New Orleans — The Clippers' Blake Griffin won't have an appointment to play against the Chicago Bulls in late January, or the Atlanta Hawks in early February, or against any other NBA team this season.

Now the most important appointment Griffin will be keeping will come Jan. 20. Only it will be at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic with Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who will operate on Griffin's left knee.

Thus, Griffin's rookie season has ended. Then again, it never really started for the star-crossed Clipper.

The Clippers announced Wednesday that Griffin, the No. 1 pick in the 2009 NBA draft, experienced some "discomfort in his recently accelerated rehabilitation program," and needs surgery, meaning he will be out for four to six months.

This was the result the team feared after its power forward suffered a stress fracture in his left kneecap in the Clippers' final preseason game in October against New Orleans. He has not played since.

"If he had surgery right away [in October], he would have missed this whole season," Coach Mike Dunleavy said before the Clippers' 108-94 loss at New Orleans on Wednesday. "By taking that shot, it was a calculated good risk for us and Blake to take.

"Either way, it wouldn't matter. He should be back in plenty of time for next season."

In fact, Griffin had been making progress, doing some light shooting, hitting all of the necessary check points in his rehabilitation schedule.

Until it came time to test the impact of jumping.

"He experienced some pain [in the pool], and obviously when I heard that, that wasn't good news," Dunleavy said.

" . . . That information was not, at any point, what we wanted to hear, anything having to do with pain and knee. After conferring with Blake, his agent, doctors, then the decision was ultimately made to do the surgery sometime in the near term so that it would ensure Blake would be back in plenty of time for next season."

Griffin is scheduled to meet with the media today at the Clippers' training facility at Playa Vista. The surgery will be done by ElAttrache, who performed reconstructive knee surgery on New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Now Griffin's season-long absence may actually mean the Marcus Camby trade rumors might stop for a few days. Dunleavy was asked whether Griffin's surgery would prompt the Clippers to make a player move.

"We would make any kind of move that is an opportunity, good move anyway, but as far as right now, we're just sitting tight," he said.

In New Orleans, Griffin's teammates were not caught off guard by the development.

"He hasn't played yet so I wasn't super super surprised," backup point guard Sebastian Telfair said. "I was a little disappointed. If it's the best thing for his future, you've got to look at it long term. You know he's going to be a good player. You don't' want to jeopardize that."

Center Chris Kaman, who sat out his second consecutive game because of a sore back, is a veteran of injuries and rehabilitation.

"Any time someone gets hurt, you don't control those things," Kaman said. "Those things happen. You try to do the best you can and live with it."

If anything, the Clippers were probably more stunned when Griffin's injury was disclosed just before the regular season started.

Wednesday was the 37th game without Griffin. The full impact of his absence is largely unknown because he never appeared in a regular-season game for the Clippers.

"You don't know because he didn't play at all this year," Kaman said. "It's hard to gauge that. He showed so much potential, athleticism, skills and knowledge. It's just frustrating to have it end that way."

During the exhibition season, the 6-foot-10 Griffin averaged 13.7 points and 8.1 rebounds, and his athleticism and numerous highlight-reel dunks created buzz around the NBA. San Antonio Coach Gregg Popovich called Griffin "a monster," and Griffin's teammates preferred the nickname "Amazin'."

Second-year center DeAndre Jordan perhaps is Griffin's closest friend on the team, and they spoke Wednesday. Jordan was pleasantly surprised by Griffin's mood.

"He's positive. He's ready to have the surgery," Jordan said. "I thought he was going to be negative, but he's ready for the rehab to happen. I told him that we all want him to come back but his health is obviously more important than coming back this year.

"I'd rather have him have the surgery and come back 110% next year than come back this year, and be like 85-90% and have the chance of him being worse or the injury recurring."

Meanwhile, Telfair might have to work on getting Griffin a new nickname. He was the one who apparently came up with Amazin'.

"I'm gonna have plenty of time," Telfair said.

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