Paul out two weeks with torn ligament in thumb
The team expects Paul -- the league's leading rookie in points, assists and steals -- to miss at least two weeks after the injury during New Orleans' 90-80 win against Portland on Friday night.
But Paul, who said he's never missed a game with an injury, insisted that Saturday's game at Atlanta would be the first time only "if it doesn't feel better in the morning."
"You never know," Paul said, insisting he was serious. "I'm going to pray about it."
Paul tore the ligament on the inside of his right thumb when he reached out to defend Steve Blake as Blake drove to the basket 36 seconds into the second half. The injury will not require surgery.
"I could feel it," Paul said. "At first I thought it might just be jammed."
The Hornets' first-round draft pick, Paul entered the game leading all NBA rookies with 16.5 points, 7.5 assists and 2.3 steals per game.
Paul, who is from North Carolina, said 50 to 60 members of his family were planning to attend the Hornets' game at Atlanta on Saturday night. He didn't want to admit they'd be disappointed.
"I might be playing," he said.
Immediately after Paul's injury, the Hornets yielded a 19-1 run and allowed Portland to take the lead for the first time in the game.
"The players' minds were on their teammate instead of the game, which is understandable," Hornets coach Byron Scott said. "Chris is a very big part of what we do, so I can understand that.
"I thought after a while that they had to realize that we still had to win this game."
Paul returned to the bench with his thumb wrapped as the Hornets pulled away in the fourth quarter. He said the injury will be difficult for him to deal with, not only because it could hurt his Rookie of the Year campaign.
"It's extremely disappointing because I cannot stand to watch basketball, especially when it's guys that you practice with everyday," Paul said. "You always want to go out there and help them as much as possible.
"If I'm not playing [Saturday], it'll be extremely tough to watch the game, but I know I can still sit over there and support them."
Scott said he would start Speedy Claxton, who has 50 career starts, for the first time this season. Claxton's average of 12.4 points ranks third on the Hornets.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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