LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin(Blake Griffin Jersey) is medically cleared for all basketball activities and started serving his four-game suspension with Sunday’s 105-90 win against the Denver Nuggets.
He will return April 3 against the Washington Wizards, the team said.
Griffin was suspended for four games by the team and also docked five games’ pay of $859,442 for an altercation at a Toronto restaurant on Jan. 23. He suffered a broken right hand during the incident after punching an assistant equipment manager.
Griffin was cleared for contact on Saturday and went through his first workout since partially tearing his left quadriceps tendon on Christmas Day against the Los Angeles Lakers. Entering Sunday, he had missed the last 41 games due to the quad injury and the broken hand.
“We went through some offensive stuff [Saturday] and everything’s a lot smoother when Blake’s on the court,” Clippers point guard Chris Paul said Sunday. “Just our continuity and the way our offense looks. And it just gives our team an ultimate confidence. But at the same time, we understand he has to work his way back in.”
Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game that the team erred on the side of caution in bringing back the five-time All-Star.
“I kind of thought [Griffin would be ready to play] before, but I still wanted to see him [practice]. That’s why I didn’t want to say anything,” Rivers said. “You know, he wanted to practice the last practice we had [on March 22] and we wouldn’t let him. Usually, when a player starts talking that way, you know he’s ready to practice and wants to go out. We just felt like the extra three or four days to this practice would help. I think Blake would probably disagree with that — he thought he should practice the last one. But, he looked great.”
It’s unclear whether the 27-year-old’s return means a spot back in the starting lineup, though.
“[Griffin] had no endurance as far as his wind,” Rivers said. “But as far as playing basketball, he looked terrific. … We figure we have five or six or seven or whatever more days and honestly I don’t know if you can get him in the condition to play 35 minutes or 30 minutes right away. My guess right now is we’re going to start him.
“The question, more importantly, is not the starting; it’s how many minutes in a row can he play. If we went by yesterday, it’d be three.”
Griffin will sit out the game against Denver, along with games against Boston, Minnesota and Oklahoma City.
“I think we’re all excited,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said. “We’ve really missed him. You can’t really replace a guy like that, but we have pieces. And everybody’s starting to settle into their role and everybody’s playing with a lot more confidence. So, whenever Blake gets back next week — it’s obviously going to take him some time to get his rhythm back and everything. We’re all really excited.”
In 30 games this season, Griffin is averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists in 34.9 minutes.