LOS ANGELES — Tuesday, Blake Griffin told reporters he was very close to returning from the broken hand that has had him sidelined for five weeks.
Doc Rivers agrees.
“Blake’s close. He’s looking good,” Rivers said without much hesitation before his team took on the Oklahoma City Thunder. “Honestly, watching him today (at shootaround), I was like, in my mind I was thinking ‘we could use some of that tonight.’ I don’t get involved in (the injury) part of it, I know there’s a reason he’s not activated. Honestly, today, watching him I said ‘Can he play tonight?’”
He can’t. For one, he hasn’t yet been cleared by doctors for contact.
“Watching him today I thought that had to be the only reason, that they’re worried it’s not healed properly yet,” Rivers said.
The other reason is that once cleared Griffin will have to serve a four-game suspension for the league from the incident where he broke his hand punching a Clipper employee during a dinner in Toronto. That broken hand required surgery. Griffin has since apologized.
Doc Rivers said that both for chemistry reasons and that the Clippers have a tough schedule down the stretch, he would like to get his starting power forward back in the rotation (and his 23.2 points and 8.7 rebounds a night). The Clippers have done well with a small ball, spread pick-and-roll style offense in Griffin’s absence, but while that has worked in the regular season, it will not be as effective in the playoffs when teams could drill down on it defensively. Rivers knows for his team to have a chance at even getting out of the second round, he needs Griffin.
And he could have him fairly soon.