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Brand unsure of return

Times Staff Writer

As he returned to practice two weeks ago, Elton Brand expressed optimism that, by now, he would be cleared to play for his flailing team.

That was the sketched blueprint, with the Clippers’ All-Star forward returning from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon to give a late gleam to an otherwise gloomy season.

Tuesday, for the first time, Brand expressed some doubt about playing this season.

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“It’s tough because the end of the season’s not really conducive to full-court practice,” Brand said. “You want to go over the other team’s plays and things like that, but we really don’t have five-on-five settings as much as I would like to, so we’ll see.”

Including tonight against the Golden State Warriors, the Clippers have only 16 games remaining. Mixed among them are only 13 off days where the team would practice.

“It will be a disappointment just because it’s official games, but as soon as guys are ready I’ll be playing five-on-five anyways,” Brand said of the possibility of not returning this season.

Brand, who can become a free agent this summer, is still performing half-court activities and one-on-one drills.

After Brand gave his quick estimation of a return two weeks ago, Coach Mike Dunleavy was quick the next day to say Brand would need additional time.

“I thought the things he was saying were very optimistic when I kind of realized what our situation was,” Dunleavy said. “That’s why I said all along that it would take longer. I still think it’s possible that he can play this season

“There will be days coming up when we’ll get some opportunities in and we’ll see how he’s progressing and go from there.”

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And the other injured Clipper in the frontcourt . . .

Chris Kaman’s achy lower back resurfaced the day before the team left for its trip, causing him to miss all five games.

He has sat out 14 of the Clippers last 27 games -- because of his back and flu -- and the team is 2-12 in that span.

Kaman was the last Clipper to play in every game until he first sat out because of flu in late January. He is averaging 16 points and 13.1 rebounds, but enduring an injury-plagued second half.

“This season’s lost . . . but I’m not trying to play this year injured,” Kaman said. “I want to make sure I’m healthy when I play.”

Kaman was originally sidelined for four games by the sore back. He returned for five games before sitting the last five games.

Dunleavy said it was his decision to sit Kaman. The preliminary estimation, Dunleavy said, was that Kaman would sit for two weeks.

“I was not expecting that he would take a step back,” Dunleavy said. “Part of it was that he didn’t actually tell me the truth when I asked him how he was feeling. He just wanted to get into the game and try and help us win.

“At one point where he had played his minutes . . . he was starting to maybe tighten up or feel it. I asked him how he was feeling and he said ‘fine’ and then I played him more and the next day he was hurting.”

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The Clippers signed forward Nick Fazekas for the rest of the season after his second 10-day contract expired.

TONIGHT

vs. Golden State, 7:30 p.m.

ESPN, FSN Prime Ticket

Site -- Staples Center.

Radio -- 710.

Records -- Clippers 21-45, Warriors 41-25.

Record vs. Warriors -- 1-1.

Update -- The Clippers have not seen the Warriors since November. They beat Golden State in their season opener, 120-114, but lost, 122-105, two weeks later. Golden State played both games without Stephen Jackson, who was suspended by the NBA for the first seven games of the season.

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jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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