Clippers need Spencer Hawes to step up in Blake Griffin's absence

Clippers need Spencer Hawes to step up in Blake Griffin's absence
Spencer Hawes is averaging 6.3 points with 3.8 rebounds per game for the Clippers this season. (Nathan Denette / Associated Press)

Blake Griffin is having surgery Monday in Los Angeles to remove a staph infection from his right elbow, meaning the Clippers will be without the 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists a game that the All-Star power forward provides.

Griffin could be out of pocket anywhere from 10 days to six weeks, the Clippers said Sunday. After his surgery Monday, the team will be able to provide a more accurate timeline for how long he'll be sidelined.

In his absence, the Clippers will need backup Spencer Hawes to play well. Hawes started in place of Griffin in the team's 131-108 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday, scoring a season-high-tying 17 points on seven-for-16 shooting in 35 minutes and 26 seconds.

But that type of performance from him has been rare this season.

Hawes is averaging his lowest stats since he was a rookie in 2007-08, with 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 17.5 minutes a game. When he signed with the Clippers over the summer, he made a decision to play for a championship contender as a reserve instead of starting and getting more minutes elsewhere, knowing well that he'd have a diminished role behind Griffin and starting center DeAndre Jordan.

With the Cleveland Cavaliers last season, Hawes averaged a career-high 13.5 points and 7.7 rebounds in 29.8 minutes a game.

The Clippers will need that Hawes without Griffin.

When Glen "Big Baby" Davis left Sunday's game against the Thunder in the second quarter because of back spasms, the Clippers had only three healthy big men available in Hawes, Jordan, 35-year-old Hedo Turkoglu and reserve Ekpe Udoh, who is averaging only 0.8 points and 0.7 rebounds in 3.6 minutes this season.

Best-case scenario, Griffin will miss only a handful of games because the All-Star break begins Feb. 12 and extends through the 18th for the Clippers. But worse-case scenario, Griffin could be sidelined until March 23, missing 19 games of the team's remaining 30 games this season.

The Clippers (33-19) have been struggling recently even with Griffin. They've lost four games in a row, though the last game Griffin was unavailable, and are in sixth place in the extremely competitive Western Conference.

Moving forward without Griffin, the Clippers will need strong production from Hawes if they're going to remain in strong standing in the dog-eat-dog West.

Follow Melissa Rohlin on Twitter @melissarohlin