Chris Paul cleared by doctors, could return Thursday

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul has been cleared by doctors and could be back in the Los Angeles Clippers’ lineup on Thursday at Golden State.

Coach Doc Rivers said Wednesday that Paul “looked great” in practice a day earlier and the only remaining hurdle is how comfortable he feels after another practice.

“Overall, he was pretty aggressive,” Rivers said of Paul’s first practice in 4 + weeks on Tuesday, “but it was clear as practice went on he got more and more aggressive. In the first half, he wouldn’t even play with the starters; by the end of the practice he was back playing with the starters.”

Paul has been out since Jan. 16 after tearing a ligament in his left thumb and having surgery two days later. The original timetable was six to eight weeks, so the star point guard could return slightly ahead of schedule.

“The thumb is getting better,” said Paul, who reported no pain in his initial practice. “I don’t care how much your train, run and do drills, nothing is like playing.”

Paul’s presence would restore the Clippers’ lineup, which has been missing either him or Blake Griffin at times this season.

The Clippers come out of the All-Star break on a four-game winning streak. After playing the West-leading Warriors, they return home Friday to host San Antonio, owner of the second-best record in the Western Conference.

But Paul said the opponent wouldn’t determine how soon he returns.

“It’s more so about my thumb,” he said. “I don’t want to be out there hurting the team.”

The Clippers are 11-19 without Paul over the last two seasons.

“I’m not going to rush it,” Rivers said. “If Chris says he’s not comfortable, I’m not going to play him because we’re playing Golden State. It’s not worth it; you don’t win anything tomorrow.”

Thursday is the NBA trade deadline, although Rivers wasn’t tipping his hand as president of basketball operations.

“We want to improve our team if we can. Sometimes improving your team is doing nothing. Sometimes it’s making a minor move or making a big move,” he said. “I would not be upset if tomorrow I wake up and everyone is the same.”