PLAYA VISTA, Calif. – The first three practices in the earliest moments of the Clippers season matter because it’s Blake Griffin, because it’s Blake Griffin coming off knee surgery, and because it’s Blake Griffin going through the two-a-day on Saturday and the lone session Sunday as if he was at 100 percent.
That’s the whole point. Griffin could have eased into camp with a reduced workload after surgery on his left knee July 16 and no one would have flinched, especially given his history with knee problems. That he went hard from the start, then, is the kind of valuable statement teams don’t ordinarily get in the opening 48 hours in September when they are looking at the possibility of a season that could last until June.
“It feels pretty normal,” Griffin said after the Sunday practice. “I haven’t had any setbacks, I haven’t had any problems, I haven’t had any restrictions. I don’t see a reason to slow it down.”
He said he isn’t even taking it slower than the opening days of last season, when he wasn’t coming off an operation that had an entire organization and fan base holding its breath. The hoped-for note of optimism at the time has come true. The torn cartilage did happen early enough for the All-Star power forward to be in a good place for the start of camp.
“He had that time after the surgery,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “He was here conditioning and working. He hasn’t missed anything.”
Patience is still required elsewhere, though. Chris Paul, who underwent surgery on his right thumb Aug. 21, has only been cleared for non-contact work. He is scheduled to be able to join full practices within the next two weeks. Chauncey Billups is participating in limited team drills while recovering from a torn Achilles’ tendon and Feb. 15 surgery. And, Trey Thompkins is not practicing because of a bruised left knee suffered in summer league.
Billups and Thompkins are not expected to travel to China for the two exhibition games against the Heat, Oct. 11 in Beijing and Oct. 14 in Shanghai, following the Clippers preseason opener Oct. 6 against the Nuggets in Las Vegas.