PAUL EXPECTED TO PLAY SUNDAY

Note: Story updated at 11:28 p.m. PT.

SHANGHAI–After being sidelined for more than two months while recovering from thumb surgery, point guard Chris Paul may return to game action Sunday.

Paul, who was medically cleared for full contact three days ago, is expected to make his preseason debut Sunday, Oct. 14 when the Clippers take on the Miami Heat at Mercedes-Benz Arena in the second matchup of the 2012 NBA China Games.

“We’re going to see how he feels after the practice today and maybe give him a few minutes depending on how he feels,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said.

The Clippers held a closed practice at the Shanghai Oriental Sports Complex Saturday before conducting an hour-long session in front of thousands of fans in the facility’s main arena.  

Prior to open practice, Paul sounded eager to return to lineup while still overseas.

“Being here in China, I mean these are some of my most loyal fans and for me to come this far and not to get out there and play in front of them, I just wouldn’t have felt right,” said Paul, who played in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and was part of an all-star exhibition tour in China during the summer of 2011. “I’m excited. I don’t get to do this (play in China) as often as I would like, so I want to play.”

The point guard had surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in August, days after winning his second Gold Medal with Team USA in the London Olympics. He has practiced in a limited capacity throughout much of training camp, but returned to full-contact participation while the Clippers were in Beijing.

Paul said the decision was made to possibly play after the team arrived in Shanghai. “It may have been after our first practice here,” Paul said. “I felt pretty good and told our trainer [Jasen Powell], ‘Call doc, and see if he’ll let me play.’ He said I could play.”

Asked about Paul’s return during Saturday’s media day, Blake Griffin was glad to have his All-Star running mate back. “We definitely want to try to get him in and try to get a few minutes. He’s our leader out there and our point guard. He gets the offense going for us.”