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Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin returns, will start vs. Lakers

From NBA media reports

Five-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin will make his return to the court and the starting lineup when the Los Angeles Clippers play the Los Angeles Lakers at Staples Center on Friday.

Griffin missed the last 14 games because of a sprained left knee, which he sustained in a 120-115 victory against the Lakers on Nov. 27. He was originally expected to miss eight weeks, but has made rapid progress in his rehabilitation.

“I just know his work ethic has to have something to do with it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He gets a lot of heat for getting injured, but no one gives him credit for getting healthy. He works his butt off like no one I’ve ever seen.”

“So, it’s all kind of subjective on how things go.”

Blake Griffin, on his availability Friday vs. the Lakers

Griffin went through a thorough workout before the Clippers defeated the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday for their third win in the past four games. On Wednesday, he practiced with the Clippers G League affiliate, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, and rejoined his Los Angeles teammates for another practice Thursday.

There were some mixed messages from the Clippers and Griffin after he talked with the media before Thursday’s practice about his return. According to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Griffin offered up an “I don’t know” when asked if he was ready to play. Then came an “it’s a good day”, which indicated the possibility of a return Friday vs. the Lakers. Lastly, after practice, the Clippers listed Griffin as questionable for the Lakers game.

Here’s more from Turner on what may lie ahead for Griffin:

But when he was asked if he was playing against the Lakers, Griffin was not sure.

“I don’t know,” Griffin said. “Kind of taking each day one day at a time. I haven’t really put a lot of thought into anything else. I’m just attacking the rehab and every challenge that they give me every single day. So, it’s all kind of subjective on how things go.”

Griffin said it’ll be a group decision made by “everybody” that will determine if he plays for the first time since getting injured against the Lakers on Nov. 27.

“That’s why we have the team doctors,” he said. “That’s why we have the training staff that we do. They have done a great job so far putting together obviously a rehab plan and pushing me and getting to this point. So, it’ll continue to be a team thing.”

Griffin also added that he was glad his injury did not require surgery and, now, he’s just ready to get back in the lineup.

“I was hoping for a sprain or something like that,” Griffin said. “It was really the first time I haven’t had to have surgery during the season. I haven’t had to rehab coming back from surgery. So it’s been a much different experience not having to go through that. It came along a lot faster. You just feel better.”

“I haven’t felt any pain or any challenges or goals that they’ve set for me at any point through this whole process,” Griffin said. “But as far as tomorrow, that’ll be a decision that we make as a team.”

Griffin is averaging 21.7 points and 9.1 rebounds in 26 career games against Los Angeles. He’s shooting 51.7 percent from the floor and 15 for 33 from 3-point range in those games.

The Clippers (14-19) have won 20 of their past 22 games against the Lakers dating to the start of the 2012-13 season. In addition to the win on Nov. 27, the Clippers beat the Lakers 108-92 in the season opener.

The Lakers (11-22) remain without two injured starters, rookie point guard Lonzo Ball (sprained shoulder) and veteran center Brook Lopez (sprained ankle), and have lost four straight and seven of their past eight.

Brandon Ingram returned Wednesday after missing two games with injuries to his quads and the team’s second-leading scorer (16.3) produced 23 points in 44 minutes of a 109-99 loss to the visiting Memphis Grizzlies.

Lakers leading scorer Kyle Kuzma (17.8) took a season-high 24 shots against Memphis, but the rookie forward made just four, perhaps showing fatigue after playing at least 40 minutes in four of the previous five games.

Kuzma is listed as questionable for Friday’s game because of a quad injury.

“I didn’t think he was tired going into the game, but he’s played a lot of minutes, and here we are getting to the dog days of an NBA season,” Lakers coach Walton said after the game. “He’s a rookie. He’s never gone through this before. He’s playing a lot of minutes, taking a beating every night, so fatigue is always a factor.”

Kuzma said fatigue was not a factor in his performance Wednesday.

“I’m not going to make an excuse, basketball is basketball,” he said. “Shots just didn’t fall.”

Six of the past seven losses for the Lakers have been by 10 points or less, and several of those outcomes would likely be different if they shot better from the free-throw line. Los Angeles has combined to miss 67 free throws in the past seven games, shooting 64.2 percent from the line in that span to drop its season mark to 68.9, last in the NBA.

“Individually, we’re shooting hundreds of free throws in practice,” Lakers forward Larry Nance Jr. said. “It’s just one of those things that we’re working, we’re drilling it, and it doesn’t get better overnight.”

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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