NEW ORLEANS -- There are hurdles stacked, but if all goes right, Al Thornton will be back here soon, playing in the rookie-sophomore game during All-Star weekend.
Assistant coaches vote nine players into the game, scheduled for Feb. 15. Four must be front-court players, four back-court players and another player of any position. The ballots are due Monday.
The Clippers' rookie is making a strong statement for his inclusion to the rookie team, with two 20-point performances in his last three games before Friday.
For the season, Thornton is averaging 8.7 points and 3.4 rebounds.
Thornton has heavy competition from several players -- Seattle's rookie duo of Kevin Durant and Jeff Green, Atlanta's Al Horford, and Milwaukee's Yi Jianlian -- among them.
"It would be fun to be playing [in the game], but my main concern is just helping the team win," Thornton said. "We've got a bad record and I haven't thought about it that much, but it would be an honor to play in the game."
The next step in Elton Brand's steady progression is a return to practice.
Brand had his surgically repaired Achilles' tendon examined in Wilmington, Del., on Thursday and was cleared to begin extensive running and jumping exercises.
"We kind of felt it was coming and then we got the OK from the doctor, and it is great news," Coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Brand has said he is optimistically targeting a return to practice around next month's All-Star break.
But there is no urge to push him along.
"What we've said all along is that we are not going to try and push our guys in any way to come back," Dunleavy said of Brand, as well as Shaun Livingston, also recovering from a serious injury. "Our main thing is to be as sure as we can be about their health."
Point guard Dan Dickau is scheduled for a long day today in Memphis. Dickau, a Gonzaga graduate, plans to watch his Bulldogs play top-ranked Memphis at the FedExForum in the morning before playing there against the Grizzlies later in the day. . . . Guard Quinton Ross ended an 0-for-20 stretch when he made a basket early in the first quarter Friday. . . . Reserve forward Josh Powell celebrated his 25th birthday.
at Memphis, 5 PST, Ch. 5
Site -- FedExForum.
Radio -- 1150.
Records -- Clippers 13-26, Grizzlies 12-31.
Record vs. Grizzlies -- 1-0.
Update -- The Clippers beat the Grizzlies in Memphis, 98-91, for one of their few road wins this season. Corey Maggette and Chris Kaman each scored 23 points in the victory.