Blake Griffin to miss three weeks, but that's good news to Clippers

Blake Griffin has surgery to remove staph infection in his elbow; Clippers say he's out at least three weeks

Doc Rivers hardly sounded like someone who had just lost one of his best players for an extended stretch amid perhaps the toughest part of his team's schedule.

Instead, the Clippers coach seemed almost carefree Monday evening when he met with reporters after learning that forward Blake Griffin would be sidelined for at least three weeks after having a staph infection surgically removed from his right elbow.

"The panic is outside the locker room," Rivers said before his team's 115-98 victory over the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Center, "it's not inside the locker room."

Rivers recounted how his 2009-10 Boston Celtics were widely counted out after a flurry of injuries, only to make the NBA Finals. He also alluded to the San Antonio Spurs' annual excellence despite persistent injuries to their aging core.

There were also last season's Clippers, who went 12-6 while point guard Chris Paul was sidelined by a separated shoulder.

"You don't panic," Rivers said. "All you have to do is look at history."

The present seemed a little easier to accept for the Clippers after they learned a more definitive timetable for Griffin's return. Rivers said Griffin could resume conditioning in about 10 days, potentially avoiding a longer absence.

If Griffin was sidelined for three weeks, he would be out 10 games.

"If he misses any amount of time," Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford said, "you feel like it's too much."

The Clippers have a how-to manual for dealing with the absence of a star. They played some of their best basketball last season when Paul missed 18 games, getting step-up performances from Griffin and a handful of other players.

Rivers said the Clippers would sign another player to a 10-day contract but would wait until after the All-Star break to do so because the weeklong break counts against the length of the contract.

The Clippers benefited from the fact Griffin's injury occurred shortly before the break, but not from its coming during a portion of their schedule in which 10 of their next 14 games will be against teams on pace to make the playoffs.

"You can't look at it like that or you'll psych yourself out," Crawford said of the tough schedule. "It's like shooting percentages or anything else. You just have to play the game and take it one day at a time."

Griffin's injury is only the latest to afflict several playoff contenders in the Western Conference. Dallas' Rajon Rondo has a broken nose, Houston's Dwight Howard has a knee injury, Oklahoma City lost both Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for extended stretches this season because of injuries, and Portland's LaMarcus Aldridge is playing despite a torn ligament in his left thumb..

Rivers ascribed the widespread injuries to a season that has included more games in fewer days because of the extended All-Star break.

"You just felt like this would be an injury year and unfortunately it is," Rivers said. "It's going to affect everybody. That's why you just can't overreact. The key is if somehow everybody's healthy during the playoffs, then that's what matters and that's when it's going to count."

Of course, teams have to get there first. The Clippers (34-19) started Monday in sixth place in the West standings and are now 1-1 without Griffin after their triumph over the Mavericks ended a season-high four-game losing streak.

The Clippers seemed pleased with the news that Griffin could be back within a month.

"I think all things considered it's a positive," said forward-center Spencer Hawes, who replaced Griffin in the starting lineup for a second consecutive game. "I texted him and told him I hope he's feeling all right. We're going to try and hold it down for him while he's out."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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