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Highly anticipated return for Blake Griffin when Clippers host Rockets

Blake Griffin is upgraded from out to questionable for the Clippers' game Sunday afternoon

It could be all systems go for the Clippers against the Houston Rockets.

Or, at least, most systems go if Blake Griffin plays.

The All-Star forward has not appeared in a game since Feb. 6 because of a staph infection that was surgically removed from his right elbow. But team officials remained optimistic that Griffin could play against the Rockets after missing 15 games.

Griffin was upgraded from "out" to "questionable" on the team's injury report. A final determination will be made during the Clippers' walk-through today in the hours before the 12:30 p.m. tip-off at Staples Center.

Clippers Coach Doc Rivers offered a predictably vague response when asked Friday how he would evaluate his team winning nine of 15 games in Griffin's absence.

"I'll let you know if Blake plays," Rivers said. "I don't know yet, so the door's still open."

Griffin's return would close the door on the underachieving Spencer Hawes starting in his absence. Hawes has failed to make much of an impact while Griffin has been out, averaging 7.8 points and 3.9 rebounds as a starter while making only 36.2% of his shots.

Griffin's return could also diminish the impact of shooting guard J.J. Redick, who has scored at least 17 points in six consecutive games.

Not that anyone is willing to use that statistic as a reason to keep Griffin sitting on the bench in silky threads.

"I think it's possible," Rivers said Friday when asked whether Griffin might play against the Rockets. "I don't want to mislead you guys. Every day, including [Friday], was in play."

There is no imaginable downside to Griffin's return, besides the possibility that it could take a few games for everyone to adjust to a dominant player who was averaging a team-leading 23.0 points per game to go with 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.

Griffin's teammates believe his absence will help the players who played more minutes while he was out, including Hawes and Glen Davis, who is known as "Big Baby."

"Spence and Baby got a lot of quality time and at the four [small forward] that they might not have got if Blake was healthy," Clippers small forward Matt Barnes said. "I've played some four, so we've mixed in small ball. So I think in the long run, this may help us."

He's a no-go

As much uncertainty as there was surrounding Griffin, Rivers offered equal assurance regarding the sidelined Jamal Crawford: The shooting guard would not play against the Rockets.

Crawford has been sidelined since suffering a deep bruise in his calf March 2 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, and there remains no timetable for his return.

"He hasn't reached the point where he can do anything yet," Rivers said.

"That obviously is not good news, but that's what it is."


When: 12:30 p.m. PDT Sunday.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: Channel 7, Radio: 980, 1330.

Records: Rockets 43-22; Clippers 42-24.

Record vs. Rockets: 2-1.

Update: It's been a head-scratching few weeks for Houston, which defeated Cleveland before losing four of its next six games, including an 18-point setback against Utah on Thursday. The Rockets are still without center Dwight Howard, though he expects to rejoin the team well before the start of the playoffs.

Twitter: @latbbolch

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