Thus is the intriguing predicament the Los Angeles Clippers currently find themselves in.
Chris Paul, who is currently third in the league in PER behind just LeBron James and Kevin Durant (decent company to find yourself in), suffered what appeared to be a minor knee on Jan. 12 against the Orlando Magic.
Here we are nearly a month later, and the unstoppable point guard has gingerly played in two games, missed nine others and doesn't appear close to a comeback (via the Los Angeles Times' Brad Turner):
Brad Turner @BA_Turner
CP not practicing yet RT @qlippers: @BA_Turner how's cp3? Is he practicing or just resting?2/2/2013, 6:49:29 PM
There is no timetable for his return.
That would be a devastating blow—just ask the 2009-10 New Orleans Hornets—for most teams, but Eric Bledsoe has been admirable in his stead, helping the Clips tread water (5-4) without their star.
Of course, if you watched the former Kentucky stud in limited action earlier this season, that's probably not all that surprising.
In 39 games off the bench this year, Bledsoe averaged 8.4 points on 47.1 percent shooting to go along with 2.7 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 0.7 blocks and 1.5 steals in just 18.1 minutes per contest.
He gave immediate production every time he entered the game, and most believed that once he received more playing time, everyone would learn his name. And quickly.
That time is here.
In nine starts, Bledsoe has struggled a little bit with his shot. He's shooting just 35.9 percent from the field, but he's still putting in 11.4 points along with 4.9 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.1 blocks and 2.3 steals per game.
According to Basketball Reference, Bledsoe has an offensive rating of 101. That's a massive increase from his first two years in the league, but it's a number that leaves room for improvement. Still, as ESPN Stats & Info pointed out, he showed signs of being a distributor Wednesday against Minnesota:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Playing point for injured Chris Paul, Eric Bledsoe dished out 7 assists in the 1st half (already his season high for a game).1/31/2013, 2:12:49 AM
Nevertheless, Bledsoe's best attribute on the floor right now is undoubtedly his sticky defensive presence.
Not only does he have a tidy defensive rating of 98, but he leads the league in steal percentage at 4.1.
As such, it's unsurprising that he's getting praise like this from ESPN's Chris Palmer:
Chris Martin Palmer @ChrisPalmerNBA
NBA's 3 best defensive players 6-2 and under: 1. Eric Bledsoe 2. Avery Bradley 3. Chris Paul1/31/2013, 4:55:07 AM
Bledsoe may not technically be a starter when Chris Paul is healthy, but with the All-Star sidelined indefinitely, the Clippers are lucky he has starter talent.
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