Chris Paul Says Clippers Need Blake Griffin in Order to Contend for Title

Kyle NewportFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2016

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16: Blake Griffin #32 and Chris Paul #3 of the Los Angeles Clippers during the game against the Milwaukee Bucks on December 16, 2015 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2015 NBAE (Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Los Angeles Clippers have played much better basketball without Blake Griffin this season than they had with him, but point guard Chris Paul said the star forward is vital to the team's success.

With Griffin, Paul believes the Clippers can contend for a championship. Without him? Not a chance.

Griffin has not played since Christmas Day because of a quadriceps injury as well as a broken hand. The team was 17-13 on Dec. 25 and has proceeded to go 23-7 in Griffin's absence. Some have wondered, given how well the team has played over the past two-plus months, if the Clippers would be better off without the high-flying forward. Paul is not one of those people.

On Feb. 26, the nine-time All-Star talked about the importance of getting the big man back on the court, per Scott Howard-Cooper of"We can't win a championship without Blake. That's the only reason we play.

"I don't care if he gets back the day before the playoffs. We're playing for a championship, and there's no championship without Blake Griffin. There's not one."

The 30-year-old point guard understands having another star on the court with him will give the Clippers (40-20) a better shot at contending with the likes of the Golden State Warriors (55-5) and San Antonio Spurs (52-9). Griffin was averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and five assists per game this season before he got hurt.

On Tuesday, Griffin told reporters he was "very close" to returning, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register. Of course, once he is set to play, the 26-year-old must serve a four-game suspension handed down by the Clippers for punching the team's assistant equipment manager, an incident that resulted in his broken hand.

By the time he does finally get back on the court, Griffin may only have a handful of games to get back in the flow of things. His return should at least allow the Clippers to match up better with a team like the Warriors.

Golden State seems like it's destined to win its second straight NBA title this season, and it will be more than difficult for L.A. to take down the Warriors in a seven-game series—with or without Griffin. But if the Clippers don't have their star forward, even Paul thinks the team's championship chances would be bleak.