Paul was typically noncommittal when asked about playing against the Warriors.
“Don’t know” was all he said when queried about returning to play sooner than the expected six- to eight-week timetable following a Jan. 18 procedure to repair a ligament in his left thumb.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers offered a more encouraging tone, saying his point guard “could play tomorrow” after Paul performed unencumbered during practice Tuesday evening.
“The thumb is getting better,” Paul said before practice Wednesday. “I’m excited to get out here in practice. I’m getting better. I’m getting better.”
The Clippers have played 13 games since Paul was injured during a Jan. 16 game against Oklahoma City. To be sure, it has been a struggle for them, their 6-7 record without Paul a clear indication of how much he means to the team.
“He could play tomorrow. I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically,” Rivers said. “But we just want to make sure he’s comfortable playing.”
Paul recently began practicing and scrimmaging, but that was against the Clippers’ video guys. Tuesday and Wednesday he rejoined his teammates.
“Chris looked great. He really did,” Rivers said of Tuesday’s practice. “That’s all I’m going to tell you. But he looked great. He went through the whole practice. So it was good, really good.”
The Clippers have fallen to the fourth seed in the Western Conference. They are four games behind third-seeded Houston and half a game ahead of Utah.
The Clippers are diligently surveying the trade landscape, calling and taking calls in an attempt to improve their team.
The NBA trade deadline is noon PST Thursday.
“We want to improve our team if we can,” Rivers said. “Sometimes improving your team is making a minor move or making a big move. Right now, that’s what they’re (his Clippers basketball staff) doing. But we like our team. I would not be upset if (Thursday) I wake up and everyone’s the same. I would be fine with that.”
After their weeklong All-Star break, the Clippers will face the two teams with the best NBA records — Golden State and San Antonio — on back-to-back nights.
When asked if returning against playoff-bound opponents weighed in his decision, Paul replied, “No, it can’t. It can’t, because it’s more so about my thumb. I don’t want to be out there hurting the team. That’s my biggest thing.”
He said that along with the Clippers’ training and medical staff, “we’re going to figure it out.”
With 28 regular-season games left, Paul is optimistic but cautious.
“We understand it’s the second half of the season,” Paul said. “We understand where we’re at and where we need to get to and where we’d like to be. So we’re just going to keep playing, and when I’m ready and able to play, trust me, I’m hoping the guys will hold it down until then.”
AT GOLDEN STATE
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Oracle Arena.
On the air: TV: TNT; Radio: 570, 1330.
Records: Clippers 35-21; Warriors: 47-9.
Record vs. Warriors: 0-3.
Update: The Clippers, who won four straight games before the All-Star break, have lost nine consecutive games to the Warriors. The Clippers have lost the three games this season by an average of 25.3 points, including a 46-point pasting in Oakland. … The Warriors lead the NBA in scoring (118.2 points a game) and are second in the league in defensive field-goal percentage (43.6%).