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Brand could play in final five or six games

Times Staff Writer

What do you know?

The Clippers were almost whole Monday, with key components of the squad returning to practice.

Elton Brand took part in a full-fledged scrimmage for the first time since rupturing his Achilles’ tendon last summer. He joined center Chris Kaman, laboring through an injury-plagued second half.

Coach Mike Dunleavy gave a target date for Brand’s return for the first time, pinning down the last five or six games of the season.

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If Brand returns during that stretch, the Clippers will be beginning their final homestand with games against Houston, Denver and the Lakers before going on the road to finish the season.

“If we can get him then, it’ll be great. If we can’t, we’ll see what we can get,” Dunleavy said.

“More conditioning needs to be done for sure, but it’s a good first step. It’s the first time he’s been up and down at all, as far as banging with contact. All the drill work looks good, running up and down with nobody hitting you. Now it’s being able to get to the point to really compete.”

They scrimmaged for about 20 minutes with Brand and Kaman guarding each other. Dunleavy has been adamant that he will not play Brand until he is convinced the two-time All-Star forward can compete at a high level.

“My feelings are, if you didn’t know I was out for a while and watching the practice, I fit in pretty well,” Brand said, adding that his Achilles’ is 100%. “It’s totally healed now. Now it’s just pushing it and just playing.”

Dunleavy expects Kaman (nerve inflammation in his lower back) to work himself into a game sometime this week, but the center is doubtful tonight against the Dallas Mavericks.

“I think he’s capable of playing some minutes, if I wanted to do that,” Dunleavy said. “I think he clearly is close. I think he’ll be back sometime this week, for sure.”

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The Clippers receive a boost against the Mavericks tonight with Dirk Nowitzki sitting out his first game because of high ankle and knee sprains. Still, they face an uphill struggle to avoid eclipsing a season-high seven-game losing streak.

“I don’t think anybody, even their people, would say Nowitzki being out is not going to make it tougher for them to win games,” Dunleavy said. “But it’s an opportunity for somebody to step up.”

Mavericks forward Brandon Bass is expected to replace Nowitzki. Bass had 14 points and five rebounds in the Mavericks’ 95-94 victory over the Clippers on Jan. 12.

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Two games and a combined 10 points. But no, Al Thornton said, it’s not a sign of hitting a rookie wall.

Instead, he said he is still feeling the effects of a sore hamstring.

“I can’t really explode and move the way I want,” he said. “That’s the thing that’s kind of irritating me right now.”

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Quinton Ross has a sore left foot but is probable tonight, as are Tim Thomas (stomach virus) and Brevin Knight (sore left leg). Aaron Williams (abdominal strain) remains doubtful.

TONIGHT

at Dallas, 5:30 PDT, Ch. 5 Site -- American Airlines Center.

Radio -- 710.

Records -- Clippers 21-48, Mavericks 44-26.

Record vs. Mavericks -- 0-2.

Update -- Dallas has lost three in a row at home, falling to the Lakers, Boston and San Antonio.

-- jonathan.abrams@latimes.com


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