LOS ANGELES -- Monday was "Ralph Lawler Night," as the Los Angeles Clippers celebrated the career of longtime play-by-play announcer Ralph Lawler, who has been with the team for 36 years.
Considering the Clippers have mostly been on the losing end until the past four years, Charles Barkley joked before the game that Lawler is like Drake now: "Started from the bottom, now you're here."
The Clippers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 89-76 as Minnesota struggles through one of those seasons Lawler became all too familiar with during his time with the Clippers.
Although Lawler isn't planning on retiring after this season, the Clippers did want to honor him, and Doc Rivers believes Lawler's will be the first jersey the team retires when he does finally call his last game.
"I think he deserves it," Rivers said. "When I first took this job, I was trying to find a way to build some tradition, and I thought, 'Let's hang some jerseys up of retired players,' and I started looking at the rosters, and the only guy was Ralph. He really will be the first. I think that's a guarantee whenever we get around to retiring someone's jersey. The first one will be a microphone or a mustache or something. We have to retire something. He deserves it. He's been terrific."
Many former Clippers, including Gene Shue, Norm Nixon, Gary Grant, Corey Maggette, Olden Polynice, Pooh Richardson, Keyon Dooling and Derek Anderson, were on hand to honor Lawler before the game and at the half.
Griffin, Crawford out: Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford missed Monday's game and are not expected to play this week. Sunday would be the earliest return for Griffin, who has been out four weeks after having a staph infection removed from his right elbow, while Crawford is expected to be out longer with a right calf contusion.
"There's no timetable for Jamal at all," Rivers said. "Blake, there really isn't either. We're assuming a week, maybe. I don't know. I think he's closer than Jamal, but there is no timetable."
Paul struggles: Chris Paul played Monday with a bruised right knee cap suffered in Sunday's game against Golden State, but he was walking gingerly at times and on the stationary bicycle when he wasn't playing. He finished with two points on 1-of-6 shooting and had 15 assists in 29 minutes. Paul is expected to play Wednesday against Oklahoma City but could be a game-time decision, as he was before Monday's game.
"We're going to wait and see how he moves around," Rivers said. "It's nothing serious, but when you bang your knee, there's swelling. It really comes down to how well he can function. If he feels like he has his movement, he'll play. If he feels like he doesn't, he will not play."
Paul has played and started every game this season. He has never played in all 82 games of a season and has said that is a goal, but Rivers laughed and said it wasn't his goal. The health of Paul for the playoffs is more important to Rivers.
"It's a great goal to have every year for every player," Rivers said. "Now, you hear all this talk about too many games and stuff, it's refreshing when you have your guy probably playing the most minutes that wants to play all 82, but I don't care about it."