Injured Clippers rookie Blake Griffin might finally join his teammates in practice later this week, but only for running and shooting, Coach Mike Dunleavy said Saturday.
Griffin, a power forward who was the NBA's No. 1 draft pick, is still waiting to make his debut after suffering a stress fracture in his left kneecap.
He has been steadily rehabilitating the knee, but no timetable has been set for when he'll play his first regular-season game or, for that matter, when he'll first practice when contact with other players is involved.
But Griffin is nearly ready to join his teammates for a so-called "5 and 0" practice drill, in which "we have our team running up and down full court, full speed, running plays and things of that nature" without a defense on the court, Dunleavy said after the team's practice Saturday.
"I would assume that to be, like, next week at some point," Dunleavy said.
"I think he's capable of about everything except he hasn't taken the step of really exploding up and having to land," Dunleavy said. "That is the last hurdle that he'd have to get through to get to contact" practice with other players.
"It's probably still very conservative, but that's the way we're doing it."
Griffin, 20, said "we would love to know exactly when I'd be back; it would make everything easier. But it's one of those things kind of day by day, just seeing how far along I am."
And with the season nearly half over, Griffin's patience has been tried, but not broken.
"I actually found out that I'm a little more patient than I thought, to be honest," he said. "At the same time, I've learned a valuable lesson of not rushing something, especially something like this.
"I've always been one of those guys who wanted to get back as soon as possible and play through a little pain here and there. But this is something serious, this is something I can't play through. You've got to be smart about it."
Beating the Heat
The Clippers said the key to beating the Miami Heat at Staples Center today won't be so much trying to control high-scoring Dwyane Wade as it will be trying to neutralize his teammates.
"There's nothing you can really do to keep [Wade] under control; he's going to score," forward Marcus Camby said. "You just have to be able to keep the guys around him down and have good success on the rebounding."
The game will be the first meeting of the season between the Clippers, who are seeking their fourth consecutive win, and the Heat. They split two games last season.
Wade is averaging 27.1 points per game this season, and Dunleavy said Wade is "always going to get his points. We're just going to have to try to make him work hard to get them."
Will that require double-teaming Wade on defense?
"It could," Dunleavy said. "Some of it depends on the way the game is going, the score and momentum, but you definitely have your plans in place to double-team him as needed."
Guard Sebastian Telfair was doubtful for today's game because of a sore right groin. . . . Camby and Dunleavy said a Washington Post report of a rumor that the Washington Wizards might be interested in trading forward Caron Butler for Camby was news to both of them. . . . The Clippers' win over the Lakers on Wednesday was their 16th of the season. Last season, when the Clippers won only 19 games, their 16th victory came March 15.