Blake Griffin medically cleared for basketball, begins four-game suspension Sunday

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Blake Griffin is back. Almost.

Griffin — who has been out since Christmas with first a quadriceps injury and then a broken hand that required surgery after punching a team employee — has been cleared for basketball activities, the team announced Sunday. That means he now starts serving a four-game suspension for that punch (he’s being docked five games’ pay).

That means Griffin will return next Sunday when the Clipper host the Washington Wizards. He can play in up to seven games before the playoffs begin, trying to get into a rhythm before the playoffs tip-off.

The Clippers have played well without Griffin, running a more spread pick-and-roll offense with much better ball movement. That ball movement needs to continue with Griffin in the lineup if the Clippers are going to be a threat in the second round or beyond.

Los Angeles is pretty locked into the four seed, which means (barring an unforeseen dramatic change of events) they will face a depleted Grizzlies team in the first round, followed by the juggernaut Golden State Warriors in the second. On paper the Clippers like their chances with the Warriors — when Golden State goes small the athleticism of Griffin and DeAndre Jordan allows L.A. to stay big, but so far this season the Warriors have had little trouble with the Clippers.

And if the Clippers get bounced in the second round again, Doc Rivers and the Clippers staff have some thinking to do about roster construction.