Clippers guard Eric Gordon has been out of the lineup since Jan. 22, but the… (Gary A. Vasquez / US Presswire )
Mysteries are all well and good … just not in the NBA.
With only 26 games left in the season, it's still hard to really know about the Clippers' true abilities and chemistry because so many key players have been sidelined.
Immediate clarity remains elusive because their leading scorer, shooting guard Eric Gordon, did not make the trip Monday to Oklahoma City. He stayed home to get treatment on his injured but improving right wrist, which has kept him sidelined since Jan. 22.
But Clippers forward Craig Smith, out for two months because of a herniated disk in his lower back, could play Tuesday against the Thunder.
With seven weeks to go in the season, there are several items on the Clippers' wish list:
If Gordon returns for Monday's game at Sacramento, it would be the first time he was on the court with both Chris Kaman and Baron Davis since Dec. 5.
It is almost as if Davis, Kaman and Gordon have been on a relay, handing each other the baton of injury since the season's third game. Even the projected first guard off the bench, Randy Foye, sat out more than a month of the season because a hamstring injury.
The injuries to the veterans forced the Clippers rookies into fast-forward mode, and they responded in varying ways. Blake Griffin, of course, has flourished under huge pressure and high expectations.
Point guard Eric Bledsoe started well, lost his way and showed signs of renewed promise in last week's win at Minnesota. Small forward Al-Farouq Aminu, the team's first-round pick last year, looked painfully lost on the recent eight-game trip and has not seemed this adrift since the summer league.
"Let's find out what kind of team we have once we get healthy in a week or so," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "I'm looking forward to the other half" of the season.
Said Kaman: "I know … we've gotten better over the year. We [will] have the same team next year, so we want to continue to make ourselves better. We'll wait and see what happens."
In a sense, next season begins now for the Clippers.
Even if they don't do much besides making a minor move by Thursday's trade deadline, getting a healthy Gordon back is like adding a big piece without sacrificing anything.
Become road warriors
The Clippers have 15 games remaining on the road, starting Tuesday with the Thunder game and the return of rookie and native son Griffin to his roots. There are 11 games left at home in the friendly confines of Staples Center, where they are two games over. 500.
The home-road divide has been stark. Historically, the Clippers have struggled on the road — the last time they won more than 10 road games was in the 2006-07 season, when they were 15-26.
This season, they are 5-21 and dropped their first 11 on the road.
There is even a wide gap in the home-road scoring numbers for Griffin.
Overall, Griffin is averaging 22.8 points per game. But he averages 25.0 points at home compared with 20.2 points on the road.
Interestingly enough, Davis is averaging 15.6 points on the road and 10.9 at home.
"Sometimes you've got to get knocked around and bruised up in order for you to learn," Davis said. "It's like tough love. We've stayed together throughout the [last] trip. We made some mistakes and it cost us on the defensive end and the offensive end.
"It'll be good for us to regroup."
Foye pinpointed an excellent third quarter against the Timberwolves — in the Clippers' last game before the All-Star break — as what the Clippers need to do defensively. In that game, the Clippers held the Timberwolves to 35.4% shooting.
That is the sort of effort on defense required on nights when Griffin is double-teamed or when the Clippers just aren't clicking offensively.
"We have to learn how to win without shooting the ball well, when our offense is not going well," Davis said. "That's the most important thing and where our growth is going to come."