Injury Update: Griffin Feels Ready, Expected Back In Next Few Days

DENVER – A triumphant Clippers win to start the week against the Thunder was marred by Chris Paul’s unfortunate injury news. On the contrary, a blowout loss Saturday against the Nuggets to end the week was made easier by Blake Griffin’s positive injury news.

Griffin didn’t play Saturday, but he made the road trip with the Clippers and is expected to play within the next couple games after missing the past month recovering from arthroscopic surgery to his right knee.

He’s in the middle of his expected four-to-six-week recovery from the Dec. 20 surgery, and head coach Doc Rivers said Griffin’s close to 100 percent. But he wants to be cautious with the star forward, who’s itching to return to the court as soon as possible.

“I would play tonight if they let me,” Griffin said at Saturday’s shootaround. “For me personally…there’s not a game that I’m targeting. But this trip, this is it.”

Griffin said he’s as close to full health as he can be. For the last few games, he’s sprinted on the court without the need of a brace, while also going through basketball drills at practices. The last step before a return was contact drills, which he started late this week.

“It just hasn’t been full court,” Rivers said. “He’s had a bunch of 1-on-1’s. He’s playing. He’s been playing for a good three, four, five days already. He’s good.”

Good enough that Rivers is confident Griffin will return either Monday in Atlanta or Tuesday in Philadelphia. Rivers said he’ll wait and see how Griffin looks in the coming days, but he added that Griffin went through a good workout Friday, and he’s encouraged by what he’s seen recently.

“He feels great,” Rivers said. “He told me he feels normal, which is good. We just want him to keep doing it, go through a couple more before we play him.”

As of Saturday late afternoon, the Clippers had yet to decide if they would practice following a long flight from Denver to Atlanta, but Rivers wants to get Griffin on the floor at some point Sunday to see where he’s at physically.

Every game Griffin misses is excruciating for him to have to sit, and not made any easier by nights such as Saturday’s 25-point loss.

“I’ve been putting pressure on them since Dec. 21,” Griffin quipped.

Still, he understands the importance of patience and how essential it was to get the procedure done, despite the wrench it through in his season.

Griffin hasn’t played since posting 26 points, seven rebounds and seven assists Dec. 18 against the Wizards, and even that was after weeks of fighting through pain. Griffin said during the break between a Dec. 4 matchup against the Pacers and a Dec. 7 matchup against the Warriors, he saw a doctor, got his knee drained, played against Golden State and then sat out the next game. Initially, he felt better, but after a little time the pain returned.

“I needed to take care of it, needed to get it done,” Griffin said. “Being back out there, I feel so much better than the last three or four weeks before (the surgery). It’s January, you hate missing games, and you hate leaving your teammates out there. But, I think the long-term health is more important.”

Griffin’s return should be a welcomed boost for a Clippers team that’s lost its past two games since Paul’s left thumb injury, which required surgery.

In addition, they could get their rookie first-round draft pick back sometime soon, as well. Brice Johnson hasn’t played this season after suffering a herniated disc in his back in the preseason, but he too was running sprints before Saturday’s game and is ramping up his work.

“He’s getting very close to possibly playing a D-League game or something like that,” Rivers said. “We don’t know with his back if we’ll send him to the D-League because of the health part of it. That’s a tough one for us.”