It was back to basketball, but not basketball questions, for the Clippers on Wednesday, one day after the team announced it had suspended Blake Griffin for four games for his role in an altercation with a team assistant equipment manager.
Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin and team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi will rejoin the team “probably after the All-Star break,” which begins after the Clippers’ game against the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night at TD Garden.
“Can’t wait,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said when asked about the return of his teammate and the popular team staff member. “Like we’ve been saying, both of those guys are a part of our family and we can’t wait to get them back, get some things back to a little bit of normalcy.”
Rivers said it was nice to have the uncertainty regarding Griffin’s punishment resolved after he repeatedly punched Testi on Jan. 23 at a Toronto restaurant, leaving Griffin with a broken right hand and Testi with a swollen face.
“Obviously, we don’t get Blake back yet,” Rivers said. “We have a lot of games before that and we have to keep trying to get through that, but that part of it is over with and now we can get back to kind of repairing our team.”
Asked about a financial settlement between Griffin and Testi or the Clippers and Testi, Rivers said: “Nothing team-wise, but with him and Blake it’s all private and I don’t know the answer.”
Rivers said he spoke with Griffin after the punishment was decided and the star power forward, who has not played since Christmas because of a quadriceps injury and the broken hand, told his coach that “he felt a lot better, but that’s an injury where we just have to wait and see” how long it takes to recover.
Griffin was projected to miss from four to six weeks when he had a procedure Jan. 25 to repair the bone in his hand. His suspension is not scheduled to begin until he has been cleared to play.
Asked about concerns that the Clippers could manipulate Griffin’s return by claiming he was fully recovered prematurely, Rivers said: “That would be calling me dishonest.”
There was a development on the recovery front regarding backup guard Austin Rivers: His father said he could return in about a month after breaking his left hand last week. Rivers was initially expected to miss four to six weeks, but Rivers said his son might be able to return on the shorter side of that estimate because he avoided surgery.
Rivers said he did not like the way the team had increased Paul’s minutes since Austin Rivers was sidelined. Paul has played 35, 34 and 39 minutes over the last three games — an uptick over his season average of 32.7 minutes per game — and has also defended the opposing team’s top guard, an assignment usually reserved for Austin Rivers.
“It’s not easy, I’ll tell you that much,” Paul said. “Austin is so valuable to our team, and I think he was sort of coming into his own, accepting that challenge on the defensive end every night. When Austin comes in the game with me, he would usually always tell me, take that second scorer and let him take that first scorer, so it’s part of what we do and it is what it is.”
Doc Rivers said the team needed to find an alternative, which would likely come from giving more minutes to some combination of Pablo Prigioni, Jamal Crawford and Lance Stephenson. The Clippers could also try to add a backup guard, though they won’t have an open roster spot until forward Jeff Ayres’ second 10-day contract expires on Friday.
“That’s nothing we can continue with because now we’re wearing Chris out and we don’t like that,” Doc Rivers said. “We’ve got to figure out another way.”
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