Each step Blake Griffin has taken recently from a right knee injury has been positive.
Griffin has increased his workouts over the last several days to the point that he and the Clippers see the power forward playing before this three-game trip is over.
He didn't play Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets and probably won't play at Atlanta on Monday. But the Clippers do see Griffin playing in his first game since Dec. 18 by Tuesday at Philadelphia.
"It's as close as I can be, I think," Griffin said Saturday in his first interview since he had the procedure on his knee to remove loose bodies on Dec. 20. "It was good to get some contact in yesterday. So it's good to get some like real work in besides just running and shooting. It's kind of up to them."
Griffin, who has been sidelined for the last 17 games, said he doesn't have a "target" date to return.
"But this trip," Griffin said, "this is it."
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers was asked for an exact date for Griffin's return, but he wasn't willing to give a definitive answer either.
"Either Monday or Tuesday," Rivers said. "Next week for sure. We'll wait and see."
Griffin worked out Friday with Brice Johnson and Alan Anderson, and reported no problems.
Griffin has had some contact in some of his workouts. The Clippers are also hoping he can work out Sunday when the team arrives in Atlanta.
"He's had some contact, it just hasn't been full court," Rivers said. "He's had a bunch of one-on-ones. He's playing. He's been playing for a good three, four, five days already. He's good."
Griffin said he started to become limited with his lateral movement, twisting, and pivoting. He said he wasn't able to attack defensively or offensively.
He had already gotten the right knee drained earlier this season.
But the pain didn't go away.
"I needed to take care of it, needed to get it done," Griffin said. "Being back out there, I feel so much better than the last three or four weeks before. It's January. You hate missing games. You hate leaving your teammates out there. But I think the long-term health is more important."
With Chris Paul out six to eight weeks recovering from surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb, Griffin is even more eager to return.
Griffin was averaging 21.2 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists before he was injured.
"I've been putting pressure on them since Dec. 21," Griffin said. "It's kind of a team decision."