The Los Angeles Clippers announced Tuesday that forward Blake Griffin suffered a spiral fracture in his right hand after throwing a punch and is expected to miss four to six weeks, per Yahoo Sports' Marc J. Spears.
"This conduct has no place in our organization and this incident does not represent who we are as a team," the Clippers said in a joint statement from team owner Steve Ballmer and head coach Doc Rivers. "We are conducting a full investigation with assistance from the NBA. At the conclusion of the investigation, appropriate action will be taken."
"It's a hard lesson for Blake, but it's also a hard lesson for our team," Rivers said, per Rowan Kavner of Clippers.com. Rivers also indicated the four to six week timetable "might be unrealistic," per Kavner.
Griffin was already dealing with a partially torn left quad, which kept him out of the Clippers' last 14 games. Dan Woike of the Orange County Register reported on Wednesday last week that the five-time All-Star didn't have a set return date but looked close to coming back to the court. Now, Griffin's return date will have to be pushed back at least a month.
According to ESPN's Michael Eaves (via ESPN.com), citing multiple sources, Griffin injured his right hand in a physical altercation with Matias Testi, the Clippers' assistant equipment manager, while the team was in Toronto. Griffin reportedly hit Testi twice—once inside a Toronto restaurant and again after the two had walked outside. Eaves' source said Testi had "visible injuries to his face" after the altercation.
Although Toronto police aren't launching an investigation around the incident, the NBA's involvement could have major consequences for Griffin. Should either party deem it necessary, the league or the Clippers could suspend Griffin, likely effective when he is healthy enough to play again.
Missing its starting power forward for another month at a minimum will be a major blow for Los Angeles. Tacking on additional time to that would only make the situation worse. ESPN Stats & Info highlighted how the team has struggled against good teams without Griffin in the lineup:
Clippers without Blake Griffin this season: vs winning teams 2-2 vs losing teams 9-1 https://t.co/yEUBL1admS— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 26, 2016
The Clippers currently sit fourth in the Western Conference, but the difference between the fourth and sixth seeds is only four games, while four-and-a-half games separate fourth and seventh.
With or without Griffin, Los Angeles is still a playoff team. The worry will be the possibility of slipping far enough down the standings that a first-round matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder or the San Antonio Spurs beckons, which could result in an early postseason exit for L.A.