- Arash Markazi, ESPN Staff Writer
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Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul participated in full-contact practice Tuesday morning in Beijing for the first time since undergoing surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in August, according to the team's official website.
"Chris practiced today pretty much the whole practice; that obviously changes things when he's out there," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told Clippers.com. "He played well. He's just got to get in better game condition. He's been out for a while, but there's no question he's a factor when he's out there no matter what kind of shape he's in."
Paul underwent surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb in August after injuring it during Team USA's training camp in Las Vegas back in July.
"It felt great (to practice)," Paul told Clippers.com. "I actually felt like I was part of the team. I was a little winded out there, but it felt good to get back out there and get in the mix. ... I felt fine because I haven't done anything for so long. I'm pretty well rested, so I was excited to get out there and play."
Before leaving for China, where the Clippers will play two exhibition games against the Miami Heat on Thursday in Beijing and Sunday in Shanghai, Paul said he didn't anticipate playing overseas but did hope to play in at least one preseason game before the regular-season opener Oct. 31 against the Memphis Grizzlies.
The news of Paul's return comes just four days after Chauncey Billups was cleared to participate in contact drills for the first time since he had season-ending surgery to repair a torn left Achilles tendon in February.
Billups, who this summer had hoped to be ready by opening night, is still a long shot to be in the starting lineup for the first regular-season game but could be back sooner than anticipated if he doesn't have any setbacks.
"He feels good," Del Negro said last week. "He's moving good. You can be in condition, but the body contact and the up and down things, he's got to get in shape, but he's got plenty of time. As long as he keeps on, not having any setbacks and keeps on working, as he's been doing, he's going to be in good shape."
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