Paul's quick return from thumb injury worries coach

Updated: January 13, 2006, 1:07 AM ET
Associated Press

NORMAN, Okla. -- Just because Chris Paul hurried back from a torn thumb ligament doesn't mean New Orleans Hornets coach Byron Scott won't cringe every time his star rookie drives to the basket.

Paul, the NBA's top rookie in points, assists and steals, was supposed to miss at least two weeks after tearing the ligament on the inside of his right thumb. Instead, Paul sat out only one game and was back in the starting lineup for the Hornets' game against Detroit on Tuesday.

"I worry about him every day," Scott said after the Hornets' practice Thursday at the University of Oklahoma's Lloyd Noble Center, the site of their game Friday against Sacramento.

" ... Every game, there's a possibility of the thing getting hit and knocked out of place or something."

Paul similarly tore a ligament in his middle finger in college at Wake Forest, but he was able to tape it to another finger and continue playing. This time, he's got to wear a protective sleeve on the thumb. With it, he shot 4-for-14 against the Pistons and finished with 13 points in 34 minutes.

"I wanted to take it off, but they said I have to wear this to play, so I will be wearing this," said Paul, who's averaging 16.2 points, 7.3 assists and 2.2 steals.

Paul said he's still able to write and otherwise use his dominant hand and doesn't think he's doing anything heroic by rushing back earlier than doctors expected. He said he's willing to do "whatever I have to do to play."

After injuring the thumb a day earlier, Paul was on the bench when the Hornets lost 101-93 Saturday at Atlanta, which has the NBA's worst record at 9-24. That just gave him extra motivation to get back in the lineup three days later against Detroit. With Paul, the Hornets had a second-half lead on the Pistons, who have the NBA's best record at 27-5.

"It was tough," Paul said of the Atlanta game. "It killed me to sit over there and watch the game because I wanted to play so much."

Scott had an inkling that Paul might try to get back sooner than the initial two-week prognosis, but he prepared himself for the worst.

"When I looked at the schedule, I thought he could miss 10 games at the worst," Scott said.

Instead, Paul was appealing to Scott after just one game.

"He made it easy. I didn't make it easy on myself," Scott said. "He came into my office and talked. He had a big smile. He said, 'Coach, I'm telling you don't worry. I'm ready to play. I'm OK. Don't worry, coach.'

"He was trying to convince me more than anything, and it took some doing."

Paul's return relieves Kirk Snyder from having to run the offense, frees Speedy Claxton from handling the ball as much and impacts everyone on the team, Scott said.

"They've got a pretty good rapport and relationship with CP3, and they know if they get open, they're going to get the ball," he said.

Paul said he still has some pain in the thumb, but it's worth it to play through it because "I only get one rookie season."

Doctors told Scott that Paul isn't risking injury any more now than he would be if he'd waited the full two weeks.

"I think most of us coaches kind of marvel at the kid that comes back and wants to play because there's a lot of kids in this league that the first thing that goes through their mind is 'I don't want to mess up my stats.'

"He's not one of them. He just wants to play."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press