CRAWFORD MAY RETURN SOON

LOS ANGELES – There may be just three games left until the Playoffs begin. But for Jamal Crawford, who has not played since re-aggravating his strained left calf on Mar. 29, getting back on the court before the end of the regular season is essential.

“I’m sure I’ll be able to get out there before the season ends,” Crawford said prior to the Clippers’ loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday.

He said is not sure whether that means Saturday against the Kings or one of next week’s games against the Nuggets or Blazers, but the leading candidate for Sixth Man of the Year sounded confident his return would be sooner than later.

Crawford and the Clippers have been cautious with the injury all along. He originally went out in the first half against the Rockets on Feb. 26. After missing three games he made a 10-minute return against the Hawks on Mar. 8, but was shut down again after feeling discomfort. He sat out five more games, returned to play in five, including a 31-point outing against the Pelicans on Mar. 26, and went out again with soreness in his left Achilles.

“It filtered down a little, but that was more compensation,” Crawford said, distinguishing between what part of his leg was injured. “It wasn’t anything that had to do with the Achilles. The Achilles is great. It was just the calf. So, that’s why I want to eliminate some of those things by getting as strong as possible with the actual calf and things of that nature.”

After Crawford’s latest bout with the injury, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers intimated that the team’s third leading scorer may not return until the Playoffs begin next weekend.

However, Crawford believes that timetable has been pushed forward, even if slightly.

“I wouldn’t come back if it would [put me in jeopardy] having to sit out again in the Playoffs,” Crawford said. “That’s all the way out of the question. If I was to miss any time in the Playoffs, I wouldn’t do it (comeback). No way.”

And that’s good news for Rivers, who has said multiple times that having a player try to return amidst the intensity of a postseason series can be problematic.

“I would love him to play,” Rivers said. “I would love any of our guys who are injured to play. I think it would be really good for us and more importantly it would be good for him. I think it’s very difficult for any guy to miss four weeks and then play in Game 1 in the Playoffs. I think that’s hard to do.”