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Clippers' Blake Griffin expected to play Friday's exhibition

The No. 1 draft pick, who suffered a knee injury five days before training camp began, will participate in contact drills in practice on Thursday.

October 07, 2009|Mark Medina

After suffering a knee injury five days before the beginning of training camp, Clippers forward Blake Griffin will participate in contact drills in practice Thursday and is expected to play in an exhibition game Friday night at Staples Center against the Portland Trail Blazers.

"I've only been out a week, but it feels like a month," Griffin said after the Clippers practiced Tuesday. "Even watching practice is rough. It's worse that I'm completely dressed and I have the uniform on."

His return could have been today. But Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy told his players after Tuesday's practice they would have today off if one of them made a half-court shot.

Shooting guard Rasual Butler called his bluff and swished his attempt. ("I heard we weren't going to have practice anyway," Butler said).

At least Griffin no longer feels he's castigated in basketball purgatory, the result of being a self-admitted gym addict; the inactivity frustrated him. Dunleavy says Griffin will come off the bench and play between 20 and 24 minutes Friday, primarily at power forward.

"He's been bouncing off the walls," Dunleavy said of Griffin, whom the Clippers selected as the 2009 No. 1 draft pick. "We've been holding him back, which is driving him crazy."

In his debut, Griffin says he plans on demonstrating his knowledge of the Clippers' playbook and hustling for rebounds.

"I honestly feel like there needs to be a guy like that on every team," he said.

"When you have a guy like that who's willing to do the dirty work, it takes a little bit of pressure off everybody else."

Davis looks ahead

For swingman Ricky Davis, the 2008-09 season was an abominable disappointment.

He shot a career-low 33.9%, was hobbled by knee tendinitis and was suspended for five games for violating the league's anti-drug policy.

Davis says he expects improvement this season.

After scoring 12 points in 26 minutes in the Clippers' first exhibition game Sunday, he expressed confidence he can fulfill Dunleavy's expectations by being a consistent three-point shooter and providing solid defense.

Davis said he's between 85% and 90% recovered from his injury. "When I'm 100% healthy," he said, "the sky is the limit for myself."

Butler fitting in

After backup center DeAndre Jordan forced Butler to shoot an air ball during a team drill, Dunleavy recalled remarking to Jordan, "Way to scare him."

Though it was intended to lighten the mood -- an approach that was present in Tuesday's practice -- Butler reacted differently.

"I don't like the word scared," said Butler, who was acquired in an off-season trade from New Orleans. "It's something that doesn't sit well with me."

Butler started and scored seven points Sunday, but shot only two for 12. Nonetheless, Butler says he feels acclimated in the system that will have him play both at shooting guard and small forward.

"They're having me be more confident taking shots than I might not have taken in the past," Butler said in reference to the Clippers' coaching staff and teammates. "I'm picking up the plays pretty well."

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mark.medina@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimesmedina

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