Chris Paul is widely considered the top point guard in the world, a seven-time All-Star who has won two gold medals with Team USA.
Something the Clippers star hasn’t done: play in all 82 games of an NBA season.
He’s come close, playing in 80 games twice with the New Orleans Hornets and in 78 games on two other occasions. He has never played more than 70 games with the Clippers, though he missed only six games during the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.
So maybe some knocking on wood is in order. Paul hasn’t been sidelined more than halfway through this season, playing in all 42 games.
“It’s crazy you said that,” Paul told a reporter who inquired about the topic before practice Wednesday, “because I actually thought about that yesterday. … It’s a pretty good feeling, to tell you the truth, but it’s still a long ways to go.
“One of my goals has been to play 82 games because that’s really hard.”
In this, his 10th NBA season, Paul said he hasn’t come close to missing a game even though he needed extra padding on a sore elbow and grimaced early in the game Saturday against Sacramento after falling into a cameraman and experiencing floor burn in his hip.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers has tried to reduce the chance of fatigue-related injuries by limiting practices instead of holding players out of games. It has seemed to work as Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan have played in every game this season.
Nearly every part of Paul’s body has been dinged up over the course of his NBA career. He has been sidelined by bruised left ribs, a sprained right ankle, a sprained left ankle, a strained groin, torn ligaments in his right middle finger, a torn meniscus in his left knee, a concussion, a bruised right kneecap, a strained hamstring, a separated right shoulder and a sore funny bone.
Paul has found no humor in any of it. His most frustrating injury was when he tore the meniscus in his knee against Golden State in January 2010. He missed 25 games before returning late in the season.
“I remember everything about that game,” Paul said of when he suffered the injury. “And I kept playing. I played the whole game.”
He also played two days later against Chicago, finally discovering the extent of his injury when he couldn’t catch up to a full-court pass from Hornets teammate David West and then banged his knee into a camera along the baseline.
Playing through pain is completely in character for someone who tries to talk his way into games if he’s anywhere close to being able to compete.
“If you look over the course of my career, any game that I’ve missed it’s been because I can’t help the team,” Paul said. “So if I can play, I’m always going to play.”
Paul, who will turn 30 in May, was playing at a most-valuable-player level last January when he separated his right shoulder against Dallas, a freak injury that forced him to miss 18 games.
Paul has been a walking medical supply store for much of his career, wearing protective padding, sleeves, splints and braces.
The only thing he’s currently bracing for is the prospect of not being selected as a starter for the All-Star game for the second time since 2008 (he also did not play in 2010 because of the knee injury). Paul is fourth in fan voting among Western Conference backcourt players, trailing Golden State’s Stephen Curry, the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and Houston’s James Harden.
The top two backcourt players in the final voting will be selected starters, with the announcement set for Thursday. Paul is likely to be selected as an All-Star reserve by coaches.
He said he’s fine either way.
“Over the course of my career I’ve had the opportunity to do both, be a starter, which is cool when the fans vote you in [because] they want to see you,” Paul said. “And then it’s also a very big honor when the coaches do it. Those are your peers. It’s always a huge honor to be an All-Star.”
Griffin is on track to be selected a starter because he was second among West frontcourt players in the latest voting results, trailing only New Orleans’ Anthony Davis. The top three frontcourt players will be starters.
CLIPPERS VS. NEW JERSEY
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket, TNT; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Nets 18-24 ; Clippers 28-14.
Record vs. Nets (2013-14): 1-1.
Update: The Nets continue to be one of the most expensive busts in NBA history, on pace to barely make the playoffs in the weak Eastern Conference despite a roster that will cost them $93.7 million in salaries and roughly $36 million in associated taxes. And things are only getting worse: Point guard Deron Williams is out indefinitely with fractured rib cartilage. The Clippers recalled rookie C.J. Wilcox from the Development League after he played in four games with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, averaging 14.3 points per game.