Looks like this year's hot new accessory is the clear protective mask, gang. First, Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant started rocking one; now, fellow Staples Center tenant Chris Paul is sporting the face guard. By the end of next week, each team will appoint one player to wear a mask, except for the New Jersey Nets, who will tap head coach Avery Johnson to wear it, because that seems like it would be adorable.
Paul's wearing the mask thanks to a "nasal fracture" that he suffered during the first quarter of the Clippers' Friday night win over the San Antonio Spurs, when he was caught in the chops by the flailing left arm of Spurs swingman Danny Green, who has a history of damaging the faces of point guards with "Paul" in their last names.
A Clippers spokesman told Baxter Holmes of the Los Angeles Times that Paul "will be wearing [the mask] indefinitely until the injury is healed." That news displeased recently imported Clipper Kenyon Martin, who wore a mask after breaking his nose in 2002.
"It's annoying and he plays point guard, so I don't know how he's going to do it," Martin told the Times' Melissa Rohlin. "Trust me, I don't know how he's going to go out there and manuever with that thing on."
Luckily, unlike the primitive protection Martin wore way back in the Oughts, the mask Paul is wearing appears to include no leg manacles or concrete shoes, so his mobility should remain excellent.
For video of Paul sustaining the busted schnozz, hit the jump.
The mask didn't seem to hamper Paul on Sunday night, as the All-Star point guard hit 10 of 18 field-goal attempts en route to 23 points, five assists and three steals. An ice-cold start that led to a 12-point first-quarter deficit and rancid 19-for-35 mark from the foul line, not Paul's nose, doomed the Clips in their 97-93 loss to the Golden State Warriors.
Then again, CP3 hasn't yet tried to swap out the clear mask for a sleeker, more heroic black model that renders him punchless from the floor, so the situation could still devolve. We promise to bring you all the scoops and updates on this developing story.
Video of Paul's injury/masksmanship courtesy of our friends at the National Basketball Association.