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Clippers' Chris Paul could return Friday vs. Sacramento

Clippers' Chris Paul could return Friday vs. Sacramento
Clippers guard Chris Paul drives to the basket against New Orleans' Jrue Holiday on Dec. 28, 2016. He scored 21 points but missed the next four games after experiencing soreness and fatigue the next day. (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)

A left-hamstring injury sidelined Chris Paul for the seventh time in eight games Wednesday night, but the Clippers got some encouraging news about their star point guard and second-leading scorer.

Paul completed what Coach Doc Rivers called "a full workout" earlier Wednesday, and both Rivers and Paul are optimistic that Paul could return for Friday night's game at Sacramento.

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"He played up and down, and he looked terrific," Rivers said. "We'll wait and see how he feels [Thursday]. If it was a playoff game, Chris would be playing, but we want to make sure he doesn't have any soreness. If he doesn't, he's clear."

Paul missed three games before returning for a Dec. 28 game at New Orleans, scoring 21 points and handing out six assists. He experienced so much soreness and fatigue the following day that he missed the next four games.

"I'm just waiting to get back to play," said Paul, who is averaging 17.7 points and 9.5 assists a game and is one of the NBA's top defenders. "They keep saying 'big picture,' but the minute I feel like I can play, I'll play."

The Clippers have also been without leading scorer Blake Griffin, a power forward who underwent right-knee surgery on Dec. 20 and is not expected back until at least late January. Shooting guard J.J. Redick also missed two games in late December because of a hamstring injury.

The Clippers entered Wednesday with a 3-11 record over the past six seasons when they play without Griffin and Paul in the lineup. Front-court players such as Marreese Speights and Brandon Bass and guards Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton have taken on bigger roles, which could provide a benefit for the team in April.

"I tell my team that every day," Rivers said. "Even in the middle of the six-game losing streak, I'd walk in and say, 'I know you don't see it, but this is gonna pay dividends for us.' We have to find our own way with what we have now. We're gonna find out stuff about guys.

"I've had seasons filled with adversity, and then you get to the playoffs and you become really good. We didn't think we'd have so many injuries, but they happen, and you adjust. At the end of the day, you just breathe through it, you unplug, you do your yoga and your meditation and then you keep working."

Etc.

First-round pick Brice Johnson, a 6-foot-9 forward from North Carolina who has been sidelined all season because of a herniated disc in his lower back, played some two-on-two Wednesday, his first on-court action since he suffered the injury in early October. "He moved pretty well," Rivers said, "so that's a positive update." Johnson said he felt "all right, a little weird. I'm making it slowly but surely." … DeAndre Jordan's 20-rebound game against Phoenix on Monday was his fourth 20-plus rebound effort of 2016-2017, which ties him with Detroit's Andre Drummond for the most this season. The center's 34 career games with 20 or more rebounds are the most in Clippers history, second-most among active players behind Atlanta's Dwight Howard (72) and 11th most in the NBA since 1983-84. … With his 18 points Monday night, Jamal Crawford passed Jason Kidd and moved to No. 78 on the NBA's all-time scoring list. The guard entered Wednesday night with 17,530 points in 17 seasons.

Twitter: @MikeDiGiovanna

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