Chris Paul likely in against Lakers
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul went through a full practice with the team Tuesday, made it through the shootaround Wednesday and, barring a last-minute setback, is expected to start later against the Los Angeles Lakers.
"Chris went through shootaround today and he'll warm up before the game, and we'll make a decision on exactly where he's at," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "If there are any issues at all then he won't play, and if he feels good we'll see if we can get him some minutes, so it will really depend on how he warms up and after talking to him and seeing how he feels.
"He looks good, he felt good. He's been working out hard. I just want to monitor that. I want to see how he feels before the game."
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Paul has missed the past five games since straining his left hamstring Jan. 14 against the Lakers. Paul was hoping to return last Sunday against the Toronto Raptors, but the training staff wanted to be cautious and give him three more days of rest and practice before his return.
Fellow guard Chauncey Billups thinks Paul will be on the court.
"He looks good. I don't see him laboring at all," he said. "He's back. He looks good."
Billups has been playing point, but Paul will go back to setting the table.
"There's no adjustment for me," Billups said. "I'll just go back to the position I've been playing [shooting guard]."
After practice Tuesday, Paul addressed the media for the first time in 10 days and said he was feeling better but wasn't sure if he would play or not, leaving the decision up to the coaches and training staff.
"They've been trying to protect me from myself," Paul said. "I've wanted to go for a while but the team has been unbelievable in knowing what's in my best interest, so we'll see how it goes tomorrow."
Del Negro said Tuesday that if Paul does play Wednesday his minutes would be monitored.
Paul's backup, Eric Bledsoe, will also be returning to the lineup soon. Bledsoe, who has been recovering from offseason surgery on his right knee, went through a full practice Tuesday and Del Negro said the second year guard would likely be sent down to the Bakersfield Jam of the D-League soon to play a couple of games before joining the team in early February.
"We want him to get some experience and get his mind right and get some flow to the game because we don't have any practices or chances for him to get out and play," Del Negro said. "He was out there practicing today for the first time in a while and it was good to see him. He just has to build it up. We want to be smart about it. He needs some game minutes under his belt before we throw him out there with us."
Arash Markazi is a reporter and columnist for ESPNLosAngeles.com.