PRACTICE REPORT: CLIPPERS WORKING WAY TO FULL STRENGTH

MIAMI – The wounded Clippers may soon be patched back together.

For the first time all season, the team practiced with its full complement of rotation players, including guard Chauncey Billups. And while Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford remained somewhat restricted in the Clippers’ workout at American Airlines Arena Thursday, they all participated in some capacity.

“It’s kind of weird to have everybody out there,” said Griffin, who had his streak of 197 consecutive games end when he sat out the last two nights with a strained left hamstring. “When Chauncey came back earlier, Grant [Hill] wasn’t back yet. It’s nice, though. It’s nice to have a full team. It will be nice to run out of the locker room and do layup and you don’t have to get a layup every 15 seconds.”

The Clippers (35-16) are on the final stretch of a two-week, eight-game road trip, but Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said he will remain cautious with the group no matter how encouraging it what was to see them on the court together.

“We’ve got to reevaluate everything to tomorrow and see how everybody feels,” Del Negro said. “But it was good to have everybody out there.

“We’ll have a better idea after [Trainer] Jasen [Powell] meets with them today and they get their therapy and we see how they are after shoot-around tomorrow.”

Paul has missed 12 of the last 14 games with a bruised right kneecap, Crawford, who fractured his nose on Feb. 1, did not play Wednesday due to a sore right shoulder, and Billups (peroneal tendinitis in his left foot) has not played since Dec. 3. However, he was the most active participant Thursday among the four players working their way back from injury.

“It went good,” Billups said. “I felt pretty good out there, got some real quality work in, so we’ll just kind of see how it feels later on today and tomorrow.”

According to Del Negro, he is “probably” the most optimistic about Billups when it comes to returning to the lineup against the Heat on Friday. However, he added that it depends on how the 36-year-old guard feels in the morning.

Billups agreed with that line of thinking. Asked if planned to play for the first time in 34 games, Billups said, “The plan right now is to get a good gauge and see how it feels tomorrow. I wanted to get a really hard good day of work in. I did that. I feel pretty good and hopefully, I’ll wake up tomorrow and I’ll feel great. Then it’s a go.”

The Clippers were without Billups and their top their top three scorers Wednesday in Orlando, but found a way to win, 86-76, with nine available players. Less than 24 hours later, they had 13 bodies on the court.
Paul wore black padded sleeves over both of his knees while participating in his first 5-on-5 action since he limped through a game against the Warriors on Jan. 21. Billups and Crawford were also involved in Thursday’s 5-on-5 scrimmage, while Griffin (strained left hamstring) participated in full-contact halfcourt activity.

“I didn’t go in our full-court up and down,” Griffin said. “But I did a lot of halfcourt stuff and that felt good, so we’ll see how it is tomorrow morning and make a decision from there.” 

Will Griffin take on the Heat after missing the last two games? 

“There’s a chance I’ll play tomorrow,” Griffin said. “[It’s] really just how I feel [running] up and down. In the halfcourt all my movements side-to-side, pivot, everything I needed was responding. Tomorrow will just be kind of making sure it’s not any more sore than it is today and we’ll go from there.”

Sitting courtside unlacing his red Adidas sneakers, Billups looked around before talking about what could come of the team as they return to full strength. 

“I think we all kind of know how good we can be,” Billups said. “But we know we’ve got to be a little lucky with health. We know the potential of the team and it will be good to get guys healthy and begin to start working towards that.” 

Thursday was certainly a significant step in that direction.