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Clippers FYI

Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups could play Tuesday

Officially, Coach Vinny Del Negro says availability of injured Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups will be determined at game time. Unofficially, it's looking good.

April 15, 2013|By Broderick Turner, Los Angeles Times
  • Clippers guard Chauncey Billups is a game-time decision for Tuesday's game against the Portland Trail Blazers.
Clippers guard Chauncey Billups is a game-time decision for Tuesday's… (David Zalubowski / Associated…)

Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said the playing status of Caron Butler and Chauncey Billups wouldn't be determined until "game time" Tuesday night.

But every indication Monday was that both Butler, who has a sore right knee, and Billups, who has a strained right groin, will play against the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.

Billups, who practiced Monday, stuck to the company line, saying, "I'm game-time."

Then he paused and said: "Barring anything crazy, I expect to be out there. I feel really good."

Billups has played in just 20 games this season, missing the last eight because of the groin injury.

He's been working out hard the last few days and has been happy with how he has felt afterward.

"I'm optimistic," Billups said. "But hopefully nothing strange happens. I've had too many strange things happen. Hopefully that's over.

"I want to play. I don't care who we're playing. I want to get out there and play. I've just got to get back to it."

Del Negro seemed to upgrade the status of Butler later in his session with reporters. He said Butler, who suffered his injury Saturday night in the first half of the Clippers' win at Memphis, "probably" was a game-time decision.

After the Portland game, the Clippers play Wednesday night at Sacramento, completing a back-to-back set to end the regular season.

That means Billups could get two tuneup games before the playoffs start this weekend.

"We'd like to get him in both games," Del Negro said. "It's important to get the chemistry down and the rotations as much as possible. But that's been the situation all year for us. We've just got to manage through it."

Wanted: Two wins

It's simple as this for the Clippers: If they win their last two regular-season games, they will have home-court advantage against the Memphis Grizzlies if the two teams stay on course to meet in the first round of the Western Conference playoffs.

The Clippers (54-26) have the fifth-best record in the West, dropping half a game behind Memphis (55-26) when the Grizzlies defeated Dallas on Monday night. But L.A. owns the tiebreaker over the Grizzlies because it won the Pacific Division. So the Clippers, who also won the season series three games to one, would be seeded fourth and the Grizzlies fifth if the teams finish with the same record.

"Our main focus is ourselves," Blake Griffin said. "We can't really worry too much about what Denver is doing or what Memphis is doing. We've got to take care of ourselves. If we take care of ourselves, we'll have home court. That's what we need. If something else happens, if teams lose and teams get switched around, that's great too."

Reaching out to Bryant

Billups said he planned to speak with Kobe Bryant after practice Monday to share his experience with Achilles' tendon surgery. The Clippers guard had a torn left Achilles' tendon repaired last season. About 14 months later, Bryant suffered a torn left Achilles' tendon during the Lakers' win over Golden State on Friday night. He had surgery the next day.

"This is a big challenge for him as it was for me," Billups said. "He's going to be perfectly fine. He's going to get back to playing at a high level next season at some point and be able to prove to everybody his toughness and his will."

broderick.turner@latimes.com

Twitter: @BA_Turner

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