J.J. Redick, on his way down. (Kelley L. Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
The Los Angeles Clippers could be without J.J. Redick for as much as two months, after the sharpshooting guard fractured "the small bone (pisiform) of his right hand and a tear of his right ulnar collateral ligament (UCL)" during a nasty fall early in the second quarter of the Clippers' Friday night matchup with the Sacramento Kings:
After hitting the deck hard following an attempted rebound/put-back, Redick writhed in evident pain before getting up and attempting to exchange a handshake with DeMarcus Cousins, who'd knocked him to the ground. (Boogie didn't oblige, because, apparently, Boogie doesn't play that.) Redick stayed in the game and missed his next 3-point attempt before checking out with 4:47 remaining in the first half; he would not return, finishing with 13 points and two assists in the Clippers' 104-98 overtime win over the Kings at Sleep Train Arena.
The Clippers announced Sunday that Redick is expected to miss six to eight weeks recuperating from the injury; we may get a clearer timeline after Redick sees a hand specialist on Monday. Redick sounded a hopeful note after Sunday's announcement, according to Clippers.com's Eric Patten:
Redick said he’s maintained a level of optimism regarding his injury. For one, he knows what the rehabilitation entails. He’s broken his right wrist three previous times, including once as a 22-year-old at Duke. Plus, because it’s an upper body injury, he can maintain a level of cardiovascular fitness.
“When most guy’s legs are going to be tailing off towards the end of January, I’ll have fresh legs,” Redick said. “And then a couple of the coaches said it, it will be like we traded for somebody right before the All-Star break. I’m hoping I have five more months of basketball to play this season.”
While the Clippers are fairly well positioned to handle an injury at the two thanks to the presence of electric reserve Jamal Crawford and veteran backup Willie Green, the loss of Redick figures to have major repercussions on the Clippers' lineups and rotations.
Three of L.A.'s five most-frequently-used five-man units feature Redick in the backcourt, including the starting five (alongside Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Jared Dudley) that Doc Rivers has ridden far more often than any other grouping, and for good reason — the Clips' starters are outscoring opponents by nearly eight points per 100 possessions, the sixth-best mark of any lineup that's played at least 100 minutes together this season, according to NBA.com's stat tool. L.A.'s second most-common lineup, a three-guard configuration that swaps Crawford in for Dudley, has been even more potent, outpacing the opposition by a sterling 11 points-per-100 thanks to flamethrowing offense (nearly 120 points-scored-per-100, miles better than the league-leading offensive efficiency marks turned in by the Miami Heat and Houston Rockets) that compensates for super-flammable defense (108.5 allowed-per-100, even worse than the bottom-feeding Utah Jazz and Brooklyn Nets).
The Clippers imported Redick, 29, in a three-team trade this summer to provide a floor-spacing shooter, capable secondary ball-handler, smart team defender, experienced veteran and efficient scorer to a team with championship aspirations. He'd performed largely as advertised through 17 games, averaging just 15.8 points in 28.2 minutes per game, and while his raw 3-point shooting accuracy (35.9 percent) is down a bit from his Orlando Magic heyday, he's still putting up near-career-best offensive efficiency marks, thanks to customarily elite free-throw shooting (92.7 percent, fourth-best in the NBA), a microscopic turnover rate (coughing it up on just 7 percent of possessions he uses, 10th-best in the league), midrange marksmanship (47.8 percent on midrange shots) and a sterling success rate at the rim (22 for 28, 78.6 percent, owing partly to the all attention drawn by Paul and Griffin in the half-court and partly to his own savvy work in hunting space off the ball and attacking off the dribble).
Put it all together and Redick ranks seventh in the league in points per touch among players averaging more than 10 minutes per game, according to the NBA's player-tracking data. Losing a guy who can do so much with just a third- or fourth-option's opportunities, and who brings so much to the table without taking much off it, would harm any team, as Rivers said Sunday:
“Obviously, it takes out something that’s been huge for us offensively. J.J.’s movement is an offense in itself,” Rivers said. “We’ve been setting up a lot of offensive off his movement to get something else. He’s one of those guys when he goes out it changes a lot of what we do and we’re going to have to do it on the run. We don’t have a lot of time to prepare.”
Especially not when the Clippers' next opponent was the marauding Indiana Pacers, who came away from Staples Center with a 105-100 win on Sunday that improved the Pacers' NBA-best record to 16-1 and snapped L.A.'s four-game winning streak. Green started for Redick, scored just two points and was a -11 in 15 minutes of playing time; asked if the Clippers missed Redick, CP3 simply said, "Obviously."
They'll continue to miss Redick's steady contributions; the real question is whether the trickle-down effect of his injury — elevating Green, who'd played just 52 minutes this season before Sunday, to the starting lineup so that Crawford can continue to anchor a bench unit with zero scoring options beyond him — causes the kind of drop-off that forces Rivers to lean on Paul, Griffin, Jordan and Dudley for more minutes than he'd like to over the next couple of months, potentially compromising their long-term health and fitness. As SB Nation's Tom Ziller rightly notes, the Clippers will be able to outscore just about anybody so long as Paul and Griffin stay upright, but as Redick himself said, the Clippers aim to be playing basketball deep into the summer; overtaxing the top guns just to stay afloat in the race for home-court advantage in an increasingly competitive Western Conference could be a necessary midseason evil that winds up harming Rivers and company's chances in the long run.
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