Chris Paul

Chris Paul Nears His Return From Hamstring Strain

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LOS ANGELES – The Clippers handed out “Aloha” hats as a giveaway before Wednesday’s Hawaii Night against the Grizzlies. If all goes well, that’s also what they’ll be saying to their starting point guard the next time the Clippers take the court.

Chris Paul, who’s missed seven of the Clippers’ last eight games with a hamstring strain, went through a full workout before Wednesday’s game and could play as soon as Friday against the Kings if he’s cleared.

“Chris looked great today,” said head coach Doc Rivers. “Played up and down. He looked terrific. We’ll wait to see how he feels tomorrow.”

Paul said he keeps reminding himself of the big picture as he continues the waiting process.

“But, the minute I feel like I can play,” Paul said, “I’m going to play.”

Unfortunately for the Clippers, they’ve used “aloha” in both of its forms recently to Paul.

Dec. 28 in New Orleans was “hello,” as Paul originally missed just three games with the strained hamstring before returning against the Pelicans. That day was also “goodbye,” though, as Paul felt what Rivers described as fatigue in his hamstring that game, after which he was shut down for four more games.

That left the Clippers without both Paul and Blake Griffin (knee procedure) for nearly two weeks. The timeframe appears to be reaching its end, though, as Paul said Wednesday’s workout was the most he had done since his last game.

As the Clippers wait a few more weeks for Griffin’s return following his knee procedure, Paul remains optimistic about returning to the court soon. Rivers said if the Clippers were in the playoffs, Paul could’ve played, but they decided to err on the side of caution.

Now, after feeling strong Wednesday, they’ll wait to make sure he doesn't feel sore Thursday.

“If he doesn’t, then he’s cleared,” Rivers said.

With a win Wednesday – their second straight to start 2017 – the Clippers improved to 4-11 all-time in the regular season and postseason combined while playing without both Paul and Griffin.

Rivers has said he’s not sure what will come out of the Clippers learning to play without their stars, but he knows they’ll be able to take something positive from the experience and he hopes the adversity they’ve faced will help them come playoff time.

“I tell my team that every day,” Rivers said. “Even in the middle of the six game (losing) streak, I’d walk in and say, ‘I know you don’t see it, but this is great. This is going to pay dividends for us. We have to find our own way with what we have now. We’re going to find out stuff about guys.’

“Listen, no one wants to go through this, but at the end of the day, it’s really good for you. Either you’re going to have a smooth season – I’ve had a couple of those in my coaching career – those are great. Or, you have a season full of adversity but then when you get to the playoffs, you become really good - I’ve had that, too, and those are great.”

As the Clippers wait for Paul’s impending return, that’s not the only good news on the injury front.

Rivers said rookie Brice Johnson, who hasn’t played since suffering a herniated disc in the preseason, was on the floor and moved well at Wednesday’s shootaround. There’s still no timetable for his return, but it’s a step further in his recovery.

“That’s a very positive update,” Rivers said.