Clippers can’t wait to get Blake Griffin back

Power forward Blake Griffin has not played since Dec. 25, but the Clippers have been playing well in his absence.

Power forward Blake Griffin has not played since Dec. 25, but the Clippers have been playing well in his absence.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Some softer story lines embraced the Clippers here one day after they learned their wait for Blake Griffin’s return would get a bit longer.

Paul Pierce joked Wednesday that Doc Rivers’ rate of hair loss had accelerated since he left Boston, and Rivers praised seemingly every nook of his former city. Celtics fans showered their former coach and the NBA Finals most valuable player who might be playing his last game at TD Garden with massive ovations during pregame introductions.

Of course, Griffin never strayed completely from the Clippers’ minds.

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There were lingering questions about the team-imposed four-game suspension the star power forward had received Tuesday for punching a team assistant equipment manager last month in Toronto.

Rivers said the punishment, which also included Griffin’s being docked five games’ pay, was a collaboration between the NBA and the Clippers.

“They had a lot of say-so in it and so did we and that’s the way it should work,” Rivers said. “I thought it was really well done in that light. They have more people that can investigate things than us because they do it all the time, and I just thought as far as that went, it was really well handled by both sides.”

Rivers said Griffin and team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi would rejoin the team “probably after the All-Star break,” which extends until the Clippers play their next game Feb. 18 at Staples Center against the San Antonio Spurs.

“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 an altercation that left Griffin with a broken right hand and Testi with a swollen face.

Asked about a financial settlement between Griffin and Testi or the Clippers and Testi, Rivers said, “Nothing teamwise, 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 player who has sat out since Christmas because of a quadriceps injury and the broken hand told his coach “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 underwent a surgical procedure Jan. 25 to repair the bone in his hand. His suspension is not scheduled to begin until he has been cleared to play.

Rivers got a touch testy when asked about concerns the Clippers could manipulate Griffin’s return by claiming he was fully recovered prematurely, saying, “That would be calling me dishonest.”

There was a positive development on the recovery front regarding Austin Rivers, the backup guard who his father said could return in about a month after breaking his left hand last week. Austin Rivers was initially expected to miss four to six weeks, but Doc Rivers said his son might be able to return on the earlier side of that estimate because he avoided surgery.

The Clippers also would prefer to incorporate a certain power forward back into their lineup as soon as possible.

“Anybody who thinks we’re better without Blake,” Doc Rivers said, alluding to his team’s recent success, “has sort of lost their mind.”

Follow Ben Bolch on Twitter @latbbolch.


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