CHARLOTTE N.C. -- With Chris Paul already sitting on the sideline in a suit, the Clippers can't really afford to play without Darren Collison. But after the team's 95-91 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, that nightmare scenario is exactly what Coach Doc Rivers suggested.
"He's trying, but you can see him laboring up and down the floor. And, it's tough," Rivers said. "At some point, we may have to sit him down as well."
Even though Collison was able to score 12 points and dish out five assists, he was noticeably slowed on the court and walked with a serious limp in the Clippers' locker room postgame.
Collison sprained his big toe on his left foot last Saturday in Indianapolis.
Collison said the injury actually hurt less on Wednesday than when he played Monday, leaving him optimistic for Friday's game at Chicago.
Rivers, though, isn't so sure what the Clippers will do.
"I have no idea," he said. "I really think that's what we may have to do. I haven't thought past that, but I'm looking at DC, and I've had that injury myself. It doesn't get better playing. ... We've got to make a decision -- soon."
The Clippers face the possibility of falling under .500 on their current trip after a disjointed performance against the Bobcats. They shot only nine free throws and missed 20 3-point attempts, virtually all good looks. The lead changed 17 times, and the game was tied 13 more.
"It was definitely a strange, strange game," Blake Griffin said. "There were times when I felt like we were up by seven or eight, and we'd actually be tied."
Charlotte took the lead late when Gerald Henderson snuck past the Clippers defense, grabbed an offensive rebound and slammed home the go-ahead points.
Griffin led the Clippers with 27 points, but he missed a point-blank putback in the final minute that would've tied the score.
The Clippers are 2-2 on the seven-game trip, and head to Chicago with uncertainty over who will run the team on the floor.
"It's going to be tough," Jared Dudley said. "Point guard is probably the most valuable position you have. ... If DC is unable to play, it definitely puts us in a bind."
PAUL HATES WATCHING
Even the man considered to be the best point guard in the world gets a little insecure from time to time. Seeing the team you lead go 6-2 without you can do that.
"You watch the games and be like, 'Man, do they really need me?'" Chris Paul said. "Seriously."
Of course the Clippers still need Paul on the court, but they know it might not happen for a while.
Paul hasn't begun regular work shooting the basketball, and he said there's still some pain in the right shoulder he separated Jan. 3 at Dallas.
"I'm still trying to get the range of motion where I want it at," Paul said at Wednesday's shootaround. "Right now, I guess the only good thing is that nothing happened to my legs. So, I've been able to do some conditioning."
Paul rejoined the Clippers after staying in Los Angeles for the first three games of their current trip. While he needed to get in extra rehab work, it wasn't a pleasant experience watching his team win at New York and Detroit and lose at Indiana.
"I think the toughest thing was to watch the last three games at home as I was rehabbing. I'm just happy to be back on the road with the fellas," Paul said. "That was miserable because I was watching the games on TV. I don't like that."
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he thought Paul would stay in Los Angeles for the duration of the trip, but Paul wanted to be with his teammates.
When he's playing, Paul is continually talking. When he's on the sideline injured, he's almost constantly coaching. But when he's on his couch watching the Clippers on television, he felt helpless.
"During the game, nobody would text me back. That was the worst part," Paul said. "You might see this or that, and you couldn't say anything. I had nobody to talk to about it except for my brother, who was sitting right there."
Paul is supposed to be out up to six weeks, which would take him through the All-Star break.
Paul, a lock to be selected to the game as a reserve if he's not voted a starter by fans, said he would attend the event whether he was healthy or not, though he certainly has a preference.
"If I can play, I'm going to play. I can tell you that much," Paul said. "I just love to play. I'm not saying other guys don't, but I'm 28 years old. The All-Star Game is in New Orleans. That's part of me. That's where I played my very first All-Star Game at. Anytime you have that opportunity, I'm not going to pass it up because it's not guaranteed to happen next year."
But the reigning All-Star Game MVP won't rush a return, especially if it could jeopardize the Clippers' long-term goals.
"I think the goal is to make sure I get healthy," Paul said. "Everybody knows how eager I am to get back to play, but at the end of the day, you have to look at the big picture.
"If I'm ready, you'll know."
For the second straight game, Matt Barnes started at small forward. Rivers said he liked Barnes' energy with the first group and Jared Dudley's fit with the second unit in Monday's victory over the Detroit Pistons. ...
The Clippers have heavy ties to North Carolina, as Antawn Jamison, Reggie Bullock and Paul all grew up in the state. Dudley, Ryan Hollins and Byron Mullens all played for the Bobcats, and J.J. Redick starred at Duke.
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