Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford called the bruised right calf that has sidelined him for more than three weeks "the weirdest" injury of his NBA career but said he was not worried he would miss the rest of the season.
The 15-year veteran told The Times in an interview Thursday his calf was not as tender as it was previously, though he had not resumed running.
The Clippers have won five consecutive games and seven of 11 overall in Crawford's absence, lessening the need for him to rush his return. They next play the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night at Wells Fargo Center.
"It's hard not playing," said Crawford, who is not traveling with the team on its current three-game trip, "but I just look at it as each day is a little closer to coming back. The team is playing well and I see my family a little more, so I'm trying to look at the positives."
Crawford sustained the injury March 2 when a Minnesota Timberwolves player bumped into him. He has resumed shooting and seemed confident he could accelerate his recovery soon, even though Clippers Coach Doc Rivers recently described Crawford as "idling" in his comeback.
"It's just a slow process because this is a sensitive area," said Crawford, who has had his calf drained to promote healing. "This is probably the weirdest [injury] because you just don't see it happen in basketball."
Crawford, 35, is familiar with the downside to coming back from an injury prematurely. He returned in late March of last season after missing eight of the nine previous games because of a strained left calf. After playing in five games, he had to sit out the next five when the calf became aggravated.
Asked whether he was concerned his current injury might end his season, Crawford said, "No, I'm not worried. I believe I'll be fine."
Crawford's lengthy injury layoff could complicate his bid to win the NBA's sixth man of the year award for a record third time. He has played in 60 of 72 games this season but his statistics — 16.4 points per game, 40.1% shooting — are comparable to Boston's Isaiah Thomas (16.1 points, 42.1%) and Toronto's Lou Williams (15.1, 39.8%), the other leading candidates.
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Chris Paul said he hopes to play all 82 games in the regular season for the first time in his career.
Rivers said he wants to keep his players rested for the playoffs, even if it means sitting them out for a game against their wishes.
There could be a battle of wills developing with only 10 games left in the Clippers' regular season.
The Clippers have three sets of back-to-back games left, starting March 31 against Golden State and April 1 against Portland. What would Paul do if his coach asked him to miss a game in the coming weeks?
"We'll talk about it," Paul said in a firm tone.
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The Clippers will monitor Nate Robinson's sore left knee before deciding whether to sign the reserve point guard for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired Thursday.
Robinson sat out the Clippers' game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday but indicated he might be capable of playing Sunday against Boston or Tuesday against Golden State. Robinson said he hurt the knee last week when he landed awkwardly in the game against New Orleans.
CLIPPERS VS. PHILADELPHIA
When: Friday, 4 p.m. PDT.
Where: Wells Fargo Center.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 980, 1330.
Records: Clippers 47-25; 76ers 18-54.
Record vs. 76ers: 1-0.
Update: Philadelphia's lost season produced a moment to savor Wednesday when the 76ers beat the Denver Nuggets, 99-85, ending a 16-game road losing streak. The 76ers have been slightly more competitive at home, where they are 12-24. The Clippers beat the 76ers by 36 points when the teams met in January at Staples Center.