Which is where Blake Griffin came in.
Los Angeles' poster child for athleticism was supposed to help alleviate some of the offensive burden from Paul's shoulders and provide him with a competent No. 2 who could make the Clippers' title chase worthwhile.
Except that he can't.
Because according to The Orange County Register's Dan Woike, Griffin is currently playing through a burst bursa sac in his right elbow:
Bursa sacs are small pouches filled with fluid that cushion and lubricate joints. While the injury is painful, Griffin is expected to play through it.
Before Monday’s game with Cleveland, Griffin showed discomfort on his face as he warmed up, missing his first few shots well short.
Griffin shook his right elbow, which was revealed to be heavily taped, and kept shooting.
Now that's a problem.
All of it.
Not only is Griffin injured, but he's attempting to play through it, attempting to ignore the pain in the same elbow he injured during the 2012 NBA All-Star Game, essentially risking further injury.
At the same time, however, you can't blame him for his refusal to succumb to his impediment. He already had to miss his "rookie" season and is fresh off the arthroscopic knee surgery he had over the summer.
Regardless of what Griffin decides to do or what his body ultimately allows him to do, contending for a title—legitimately contending for a title—is out of the question for the Clippers.
Yes, it's early, and yes, Los Angeles is currently averaging over 104 points per contest, but Griffin is putting up just 16.3 points and eight rebounds a night, numbers well below his career averages.
Throw in the fact that the Clippers are also allowing opponents to drop 102-plus points per game—sixth highest in the league—and it's easy to see why they're in trouble.
It's easy to believe that someone else will pick up the scoring slack and that Griffin's injury won't hinder the team's pursuit of a title, but just because it's easy to doesn't mean it's correct.
Even with the former Rookie of the Year, Los Angeles has problems.
Griffin's eight rebounds per night lead the team, a team that is currently grabbing just under 37 a game, the third-lowest total in the league. Outside of that—and the obvious failure of the defensive dynamic in general—the Clippers have dropped two straight to inferior teams in the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.
Those are problems, as is their 18.75 turnovers per bout as well.
Now there's this, an elbow injury to the franchise's second-in-command that even he admitted is a recurring issue. And let's not forget he's operating on a recently surgically-repaired knee as well.
So I ask you, how are the Clippers supposed to contend for a title with Griffin playing injured—or not at all—when they're barely a contender with him at full strength?
They can't. And they won't.
Because while guys like Jamal Crawford, Caron Butler and Paul himself have attempted to pick up the slack, others such as DeAndre Jordan and his 8.1 PER are dragging the team down to begin with.
Los Angeles was battling through an excessive amount of two-way burdens from the beginning, now it's forced to move forward accepting one of its All-Stars is knowingly playing through a reoccurring injury that was "never this bad."
It's simply not possible, not with what the Clippers are angling toward achieving.
Title contenders and NBA champions are built upon durable pillars, yet they also boast the competent depth necessary to further the cause in the event a part of their foundation ripped out from under them.
Right now, the Clippers have neither, which puts championship contention, let alone actual attainment, well out of reach.
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