MRI exam reveals groin strain

WESTWEGO, La. -- Chris Paul laughed and joked with teammates after Hornets practice on Tuesday, the grim silence that followed the All-Star point guard's injury and his team's ensuing collapse a night earlier fading into memory.

New Orleans learned while blowing a big lead to Portland on Monday night that adjusting to life without Paul may be even harder than imagined.

The good news for the Hornets is they may not have to endure without him for much more than a few games. An MRI indicated that Paul had only a mild strain of his right groin and he is listed as day to day.

"I feel good," Paul said. "Maybe I can play [Wednesday], maybe Friday, so I'm going to just go with it and see how it feels. ... Any time something's torn or something like that, it can be a long time, but this right here, I felt like that was good news."

Based on the way they fell apart against Portland, the Hornets could be in for a serious struggle if Paul's pain lingers.

New Orleans led by 17 when Paul left with 1:30 to go in the third quarter. The Trail Blazers quickly erased the deficit, outscoring the Hornets 38-15 in the fourth quarter for a 97-89 victory.

The Hornets are now in the midst of a three-game losing streak, their longest of the season, with home games coming up against Chicago on Wednesday, Toronto on Friday and Minnesota on Sunday before New Orleans travels to Memphis on Monday.

Paul wants to be back sometime during that stretch, but head coach Byron Scott said he may sit his best player for all four of those games.

"Everybody knows the type of heart he has and how much he wants to play, but I don't think it's possible [for Paul] to play" Wednesday, Scott said. "If anything, [if] he plays tomorrow, he does more damage to it. So we want to take a couple of days and see if he's a fast healer. Until that thing is pretty much cleared up, we're going to wait."

Scott said he expects Antonio Daniels to start at point guard for the rest of the week, with Devin Brown as the primary backup. Paul started the Hornets' first 45 games, averaging 21.5 points, 10.9 assists and 2.8 steals.

As the Hornets dealt with injuries to All-Star David West, center Tyson Chandler and forward Peja Stojakovic, Paul often picked up the slack with his knack for recognizing where teammates are most comfortable shooting and getting the ball to the player with the hot hand. Combined with his own ability to score as needed, get steals and create havoc on the defensive end with his quickness, he's led New Orleans to a 28-17 record. As of Tuesday, that was good for second place in the Southwest Division and fifth in the Western Conference.

West and Stojakovic are back in the lineup now, but Chandler may remain out another week as he rebuilds strength in his sprained left ankle, Scott said.

"I'm not going to rush Chris back or Tyson back and put those guys at risk to get hurt later in the season," Scott said. "We know we need those guys healthy and playing at 100 percent, not out there hopping around at about 50 percent, because they're not only going to hurt themselves but then they'll probably end up hurting the team."

Although the Hornets looked lost without Paul on Monday, Scott suggested that stemmed from the distraction of losing Paul during a game.

"We were probably more shocked than anything when he went down and I think we let that affect us throughout the rest of the game," Scott said. "It does tell a little bit about our team. It's no secret how important he is to what we do. But now is an opportunity for other guys to step up again and we've got to prove to ourselves that we can still win basketball games.

"Adversity happens with every team," Scott added. "It's just how you deal with it that's going to make you a champion or not."

In the meantime, Scott is trying to give the Hornets' offense a little more structure, rather than allow for more creativity and ad-libbing by the point guard.

"Chris is a special talent. There are not a lot of people in this league who can do what he does," Scott said. "We can't go into the game thinking we're going to play the same way because we don't have the same players.

"It's going to be a lot more set plays where we can get the ball to certain guys in certain spots," Scott added.

Now it's up to Daniels, a veteran in his 12th season, to be the steadying hand Scott believed he could be when the Hornets traded for him earlier this season.

"With CP in there, 95 percent of the time the ball's in his hands and he's making plays," Daniels said. "He's an All-Star caliber player, an MVP caliber player, and you can't really replace something like that and I can't try to be Chris Paul.

"I'm not saying I have to have 20 points a night or have 12 assists a night. That's not the type of player that I am, not the type of player that I've been for my 12 years in this league," Daniels continued. "I just have to be aggressive and try and make the guys around me better."