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Craig Smith is common factor in Clippers' injuries

Teammates say they try not to get in the way of the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Smith, who has been involved in plays that sidelined Blake Griffin before training camp and Marcus Camby on Friday.

October 17, 2009|Lisa Dillman

Question of the day: If there is a collision involving Craig Smith and another player, who usually ends up walking away untouched?

Smith.

And if the Clippers didn't know the answer to that question before Smith arrived back home in Los Angeles, well, it hasn't taken them long to find out.

"He's a bull," said Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy.

In fact, Smith's nickname is "the Rhino," but you get the general idea. Apparently "the Rhino" was a creation from Smith's days with the Minnesota Timberwolves. He came to the Clippers in the Quentin Richardson trade, along with Mark Madsen (since waived) and point guard Sebastian Telfair in July.

Here, Rhino's wreckage has taken out two teammates. First, it was rookie power forward Blake Griffin's knee (four days before training camp), and on Friday, Marcus Camby, though that was more of a fluke when Camby rolled over on his left ankle and sprained it close to the end of practice.

Camby was clearly in pain and sat on the floor for several minutes before he was able to hobble back to the training room. He is doubtful with the Clippers facing three exhibition games in the next four days, starting today against Utah at Staples Center.

Earlier in the week, the 6-foot-7, 250-pound Smith seemed genuinely mystified about how Griffin got hurt in the first place in their informal scrimmage before training camp.

The bone bruise kept Griffin out until the second game of the exhibition season.

"That was so weird," Smith said. "I didn't know what happened. He was trying to go up and block my shot and the next thing you know he came down.

"Noticed he started reaching for his knee. I was like, 'Man, I hope it's nothing serious.' It was a real weird play."

At least Telfair's hamstring injury had nothing to do with Smith. More limitations were lifted on Telfair, and there is a chance he could play this weekend.

In the meantime, the Clippers are keeping close watch on Smith. He's the guy you always wanted on your team on the playground, and failing that, you simply hoped to avoid injury.

That's Al Thornton's thinking, more or less.

"He's solid. He's a [Charles] Barkley type," Thornton said. "He knows how to use his body."

Thornton laughed, adding: "I try not to get in his way. Once he gets a head of steam, it's a wrap."

--

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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