Clippers’ Chris Paul stays involved in practice as thumb heals

After the first of the Clippers’ two practices Saturday, Chris Paul unraveled the tape on his right thumb, on which he had surgery to repair a torn ligament.

Although Paul has been limited in what he can do in practice while the thumb continues to heal, he made sure to stay involved.

He stayed away from any contract Saturday, even though Paul said he can dribble and shoot the basketball.

When Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro had the players work through a few offensive sets and drills, Paul and Chauncey Billups, who is limited in what he can do in practice while he recovers from a torn left Achilles’ tendon surgery, joined the first-team unit.

Paul and Billups will be the starting backcourt for the Clippers, and both wanted to get in as much practice time with the starters as possible.

“It was real nice to see Chauncey out there,” Paul said. “When Coach called the first team out so we could go over things, me and Chauncey went out there. And then when they started scrimmaging, me and Chauncey came to the side and shot some.”

Paul said scrimmaging was the one thing he and Billups didn’t do.

Paul is expected back sooner than Billups.

“Me and Chauncey had a chance to watch a lot. I found myself watching over there on the sideline and I was actually excited,” Paul said. “I hate to watch basketball. Obviously I love to play. But it was kind of cool because I’m sitting there and I’m watching Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom — all these great players out there on the court. I’ve never really seen that.”

Second-unit jelling

Already, it seems, the Clippers’ second unit is finding a comfort level.

The reserve unit of Odom, Crawford, Grant Hill, Eric Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins is expected to be one of the best in the NBA.

During Saturday’s practice, the first since they all came together, there was a hint of what it will look like when they play together

“Today there were a couple of plays out there where me, Grant, Ronny and Matt Barnes, we just kind of read each other and were able to make plays,” Odom said. “It was our first day. I hit Grant going backdoor. And Matt and me and Ronny had a couple of plays in there.”

Odom said the “game is played up here first,” pointing to his head.

“This team has a high IQ,” Odom said.

Del Negro has playmakers in Odom and Hill, both of whom can run the offense and handle the basketball.

“The versatility those guys bring really helps,” Del Negro said. “Grant and Lamar, they know how to play. They can take you off the dribble. They can play a few positions. So you can do a lot more things defensively and especially on the offensive as well.”