The mildly disappointing season of the Los Angeles Clippers hit another road bump Friday when MVP candidate Chris Paul went down with a separated right shoulder. The timetable for Paul's return is three to five weeks, though Clippers coach Doc Rivers conceded that his star's recovery could take even longer.
After replacing Vinny Del Negro on the sidelines with Rivers during the offseason, and adding key role players Darren Collison, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick, the Clippers entered this season as a popular choice to win the Western Conference. With Paul exploding out of the gate, the Clippers looked like an offensive juggernaut in the early going. However, the loss of Redick to a broken wrist stemmed the tide a bit, and the Clippers have struggled with consistency. Los Angeles is just .500 on the road and tied in the loss column with upstart Phoenix on top of the Pacific Division. With most of the Western Conference playoff contenders so clustered, the loss of Paul threatens to throw some serious obstacles in the Clippers' eventual playoff path.
In reality, as we near the halfway point of the season, the Clippers have taken a minor step back from 2012-13, the most successful campaign in the lackluster history of the franchise. Los Angeles' .657 winning percentage is off from last season's .683, and its point differential is nearly a point per game worse. These setbacks aside, the Clippers remained in the title chase before Paul's injury, garnering an 8.3 percent chance to win it all per the most recent Hollinger Playoff Odds report. In the big picture, what has changed?