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Jaric Is Rusty in Return

Times Staff Writer

His teammates nearly two weeks ahead of him, his broken left thumb in a splint, Marko Jaric returned hesitantly -- and, in his estimation, unsatisfactorily -- to the Clipper practice court Friday at L.A. Southwest College.

The Serb point guard, a returning starter, hadn’t fully participated in an official practice since March, and he said the rust was evident.

“Every time after you’ve been sitting on the side ... you look a little bit lost,” said Jaric, who declined a chance to play in the Athens Olympics, spending most of the summer in Los Angeles rehabilitating a broken foot before suffering the thumb injury last month in a pickup game. “Everything is so fast the first couple of practices ... but I’m sure everything is going to be all right.

“Slowly I’m going to come back to the game and slowly I’m going to forget and slowly I’m going to lose the feeling that I’m injured.”

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He said that he would not play in tonight’s exhibition against the New Orleans Hornets at Lafayette, La. He’ll have his thumb reexamined Wednesday and hopes to play Thursday against the Denver Nuggets at Staples Center.

“I was a kid last night,” he said of his anticipated return. “The doctor told me I can play on two baskets, I was so excited. This morning, it was like I was in the championships and it was just a practice. And even though it was a practice [in which] I was bad, I’m disappointed because you try to do everything. Next practice is going to be 10 times better than that, I’m sure about that.”

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Centers Chris Kaman and Zeljko Rebraca also resumed practicing and were listed as questionable for tonight.... Hornet rookie J.R. Smith was coveted by the Clippers, Coach Mike Dunleavy said, revealing that the Clippers “tried really hard” to maneuver into position to draft the 6-foot-6 forward in June. The Hornets took Smith, 19, with the 18th pick. “I think he’s terrific,” Dunleavy said.... The Clippers will hold an open scrimmage at 6 p.m. Monday at Staples Center.... Only one of the Clippers’ exhibitions, Friday against the Lakers on TNT, will be televised. It’s one of only two national telecasts featuring the Clippers this season, the other Nov. 25 against the New Jersey Nets, also on TNT.

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