LOS ANGELES — Clippers point guard Chris Paul was upset right after he separated his right shoulder Friday at Dallas. That’s all over now.
Speaking for the first time since the injury, Paul said Monday he was focused on making it back to the court.
“I want to play and I need to play,” Paul said before Los Angeles faced Orlando in the opener of a four-game homestand. “You just want to be out there to help your team. But I’m cool. I woke up yesterday and was done feeling sorry for myself. It’s one of those situations where it could have been worse. Now, it’s all about attacking the rehab.”
Paul is expected to miss at least six weeks after he was tripped by Mavericks guard Monta Ellis while dribbling around a screen during the Clippers’ 119-112 victory.
“I was mad. That’s why I slammed my mouthpiece,” said Paul, who signed a five-year deal worth nearly $108 million back in July after becoming a free agent. “I felt it when it happened and I could sort of hear it, and I knew it was pretty significant. As an athlete, you prepare and do everything possible to try not to get injured. So that was the most frustrating part.”
The six-time All-Star, who shoots right-handed, had an MRI on Sunday and will not need surgery.
The Clippers rallied for the win against the Mavericks. But they lost 116-92 at San Antonio on Saturday with Paul’s former New Orleans teammate, five-year veteran Darren Collison, taking over as the starting point guard.
“Chris took it hard — and he should. He’s a competitor, and that’s why I love him,” coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s emotional, and I love emotional guys. The one thing I told him was: ‘We can’t get the injury back. It’s happened. So let’s look at this as a blessing — that you get to have fresh legs for the stretch run.’ That’s the only way you can look at it.”
Collison was UCLA’s starting point guard for his final three seasons with the Bruins. As a rookie in 2009-10 with New Orleans, Collison filled in when Paul had to sit out with injuries and set a single-game franchise record for rookies with 20 assists.
Last season with Dallas, he became the starting point guard after Jason Kidd left for free agency. He eventually was bumped to the bench after the Mavericks signed Derek Fisher, but regained his starting job 14 games later.
“Derrick is not the Chris-type point guard,” Rivers said. “But Darren’s started, he’s been in the league a long time and he knows how to play. He just plays differently. He’s a more aggressive scorer, so we’ve just got to make sure he has the right balance between that and making sure the key guys — especially the starters — are involved offensively and that the team has a rhythm.”
Collison signed a free-agent deal with the Clippers in July after they traded backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to Phoenix.
But despite Collison’s experience at running the floor, it’s still going to be tough sledding the next 20 or so games for a team that entered Monday 23-13 and was tied with Golden State for fifth in the Western Conference — after winning a franchise-record 56 games last season and their first Pacific Division title.
Paul is averaging 18.5 points and 9.8 assists during his three seasons with the Clippers.
“I think with the starters, we don’t have to change our style that much,” Rivers said. “Obviously, we’re going to have to do some things differently. The bottom line is, we were doing things before that only Chris Paul could see. So you’re not going to get those, and you’re going to have to get it a different way. But I’m more concerned with how the second group will play.”
Los Angeles now has two starters on the shelf, including small forward J.J. Redick, who missed his 20th game because of a broken right hand and torn ligaments in his wrist.
Last season, Paul missed some games with a bruised right kneecap, which occurred when he banged knees with Redick in the final minute of a 104-101 loss to Orlando. Redick was playing for the Magic at the time.