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Cassell doubts he will play on trip

Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- Sam Cassell was a wee bit optimistic.

The Clippers’ veteran point guard, who sat out his sixth game Sunday with a strained calf sustained Nov. 26 against the Houston Rockets, had originally hoped to come back the next game.

Now, it’s unlikely he will play on the team’s four-game trip that starts tonight against the New Jersey Nets.

“I doubt it,” Cassell said Monday. “I seriously doubt I can play on this road trip. I’m pushing to play, but I doubt it.”

During the Clippers’ previous trip, Cassell went to Houston to work with his personal trainer, trying to increase blood movement in the calf while strengthening the muscles surrounding it.

“It’s getting there. It’s getting there,” Cassell repeated for emphasis, touching the calf. “It’s not quite there yet.

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“Once I can get my explosion back -- forward and backward -- that’s when I know I’ll be able to play ball.”

Until then, he will have to wait as the Clippers look for a way to escape the long stretches of scoring droughts that have plagued them in recent games.

“This team looks for me to score points, especially in the fourth quarter and get guys open shots in the fourth quarter,” Cassell said. “Right now, we are struggling scoring points. That’s when I know I can get a basket.”

Forward Tim Thomas said he was fine after suffering a bruised jaw in the third quarter against Miami on Sunday. Jostling for position under the rim in the third quarter, he caught an elbow from the Heat’s Shaquille O’Neal.

“I was there in the way,” Thomas said. “It wasn’t intentional. It was just me having my face at the wrong place in the wrong time. I had a lot of pain, an instant headache. But it will be all right.”

Rookie Al Thornton played only four minutes against the Heat, converting a three-point play on a layup over O’Neal.

He was quickly substituted after missing a defensive assignment that led to an easy Miami basket.

“Basically for us, when you are struggling and fighting for games to keep you in contention, you are going to be on a shorter leash,” Coach Mike Dunleavy said. Sunday “was a time they kept it down to their guys who were savvy veterans and the other part was Corey [Maggette] was playing well in his matchup against Dorell Wright in the low post, that I couldn’t give Al his minutes.”

Dwyane Wade didn’t dunk on Paul Davis like in a Gatorade commercial featuring the two, but he did compliment him afterward.

“Paul was a soldier for getting dunked on in the commercial,” Wade said. “I wouldn’t have done that. I respect him for doing that.”

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TONIGHT

at New Jersey, 4:30 PST, Ch. 5

Site -- Izod Center.

Radio -- 710.

Records -- Clippers 7-12, Nets 9-12.

Record vs. Nets (2006-07) -- 1-1.

Update -- Point guard Jason Kidd recently denied reports that he missed a game as a protest for not receiving a contract extension from the Nets, who have lost three games in a row.

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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