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Clippers' Griffin back at practice, return still uncertain

POSTED: Mar 26, 2016 3:51 PM ET

Official Release

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Blake Griffin is back on the practice court.

The Clippers power forward still needs to be activated before he can begin his four-game suspension, but after missing 41 games with quad and hand injuries, Griffin joined his teammates for practice for the first time Saturday since getting medically cleared.

"We're not going to do much contact anyways," said head coach Doc Rivers. "He's just going to go and see what he can do and go from there."

Rivers said Griffin had been cleared "for a while," but he still needed time to build up his quad to the

point he could practice. That point is now, and when Griffin, Rivers and the Clippers believe he's ready to play in a game, he'll then be activated.

At that point, Griffin can start his suspension.

"I don't know if one practice is enough to activate him," Rivers said. "We've got to activate him when we think he's ready to play."

Whether or not Griffin is activated before Sunday's game against the Nuggets, the news is obviously positive, particularly considering the tone earlier in the week.

Just a few days ago, Rivers said he felt like Griffin would be back before the playoffs but couldn't say that "with 100 percent certainty." When asked if there was any concern he could miss the rest of the season, Rivers said he didn't think that would happen but that there was a chance.

By Saturday, all that had changed. Rivers said he's seen plenty of Griffin's workout over the last month, and his movement has gotten considerably better. Now, the Clippers will need to continue to watch and monitor Griffin as he works his way back in practices.

Rivers said he won't be excited until Griffin is back in the lineup for a game, but it's an obvious stepping stone to that point. Rivers said he's not sure what's a morale boost and what isn't, but he has to believe it'll be nice mentally for his players to see Griffin back on the court.

"We can start, kind of, putting our playoff stuff in," Rivers said. "Now, even if he doesn't play right away, at least we can work on it. That'll help us."

The Clippers will still need to play at least their next few games without Griffin, and thus far they've managed to put together a 27-14 record without their star forward, better than many anticipated.

"If you would've told me that was our record, I would've signed on the line right away," Rivers said.

To make up for Griffin's absence, the Clippers received increased play from just about everyone on both units. But as Rivers pointed out, every game without Griffin is "still in survival mode."

"Every game is a single game, and that's how guys have viewed it," Rivers said. "I just think as it's gone on, it's gotten harder and harder, because it takes a lot of energy to win games. I don't think the average person respects winning one game in the NBA, how much goes into it. It's hard."

That became more evident this month, as the level of competition increased in March. After going 11-3 in January and 7-4 in February, the Clippers started March 5-7, including a 1-4 road trip against some of the top teams in the West before returning home to beat the Trail Blazers on a buzzer-beater Thursday.

Rivers said perhaps more than anything, the Clippers have missed Griffin's ability to stop a run as they looked for players other than Chris Paul to make a play.

"We've scored the same for the most part, but it's definitely been harder without him, more his passing than his actual scoring," Rivers said. "I don't think it'll be hard, but it's different. Anything different upsets your tempo a little bit, so it'll be different."

What should help Griffin and the Clippers is his familiarity with the offense and with Paul, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick as he works his way back on the floor.

Rivers said he'd prefer Griffin could get 20 games before the playoff, but he knows that's no longer realistic with 11 games left in the regular season.

Now, Griffin will get on the floor whenever he's ready.

"I don't care if it's zero (games), to be honest, now, as long as he's playing to start the playoffs," Rivers said. "Is that an ideal way of going into a playoff series? No, but I'd rather have him than not. That's the way I look at it."