Chauncey Billups conflicted about return from Achilles injury

Chauncey Billups told a newspaper reporter Wednesday there was no timetable for his return to the active roster after suffering a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury last February. Then he said during an ESPN interview he’d be back in a month.

So, which is it?

Billups hedged.

“I said both of them,” the veteran guard admitted before the Clippers faced the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center. “So, you can write both of them.”

Officially, the Clippers have no target date set for Billups’ season debut.

Unofficially, Billups can’t say when he’ll play because he can’t say.

When he’s sound enough to play, he’ll play.

“That’s the beast about it,” Billups said after a pregame workout.

There’s little doubt the Clippers missed Billups’ steady influence during an up-and-down start to the season that featured an average of 18.8 turnovers going into Wednesday, far too many to suit coach Vinny Del Negro.

“The basketball is valuable and you have to control it,” Del Negro said.

Then he included Billups’ absence as one of the reasons for the Clippers’ sloppy play during victories over the Memphis Grizzlies and the Lakers and losses to the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers to start 2012-13.

Del Negro asked the remarkably athletic Clippers to play at a faster pace this season, but they’ve been too frenetic at times during their first four games. He also would like them to be more disciplined and make better decisions with the ball.

Willie Green started in place of Billups at shooting guard Wednesday for the fifth consecutive game. Billups is expected to slide into Green’s spot when he’s ready to play, with Green moving to a reserve role.

When that is, is anyone’s guess, however.

“It’s coming,” Billups said of his slow but steady rehabilitation and recovery.

Asked about Billups’ conflicting pregame statements, Del Negro shrugged and said, “There’s no timetable, but it could be earlier.”

–Vote of confidence for Odom

Lamar Odom, a versatile backup forward, played only four minutes during the Clippers’ lackluster loss Monday to the Cavaliers and scored two points on 1-for-2 shooting with two turnovers. He had zero rebounds or assists.

Odom was sidelined for the better part of three weeks during training camp because of sore knees, but Del Negro said he’s healthy now and that wasn’t the reason for such limited minutes in Monday’s game.

“He has to get in better condition and he has to learn what we’re doing out there,” Del Negro said. “He knows that. We’ve got to get him in a good rhythm out there. I have confidence in him and his teammates have confidence in him, and he knows that.”

Odom went into Wednesday averaging 2.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 0.8 assists and 1.5 turnovers in 12.3 minutes. He hadn’t played more than 20 minutes and hadn’t scored more than five points in a game in his first four contests.

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Clippers disappointed in their play during losses to Cavs, Warriors

Tomorrow’s notebook today …

There’s a word to describe the Clippers’ feelings after look-alike defeats Saturday to the Golden State Warriors and Monday to the Cleveland Cavaliers, inferior teams that won with a good deal more grit and determination and efficiency.

“Disappointed,” point guard Chris Paul said after Tuesday’s practice.

Paul didn’t limit himself to a one-word answer, either.

“Disappointed, and it starts with me as a point guard,” he added. “I can’t let us come out and start out games like that. Giving up 30-point (first) quarters like that the past two games is always going to be tough to come back from.”

The Clippers’ defense wasn’t sound enough in either game. Their rebounding was poor and so was their ballhandling. Above all, their intensity wasn’t what it should have been at the start of each game and they paid the price.

They didn’t get away with it against two teams that missed the playoffs last season, and might not make it in 2012-13. So, they know they’re going to have to play a more complete game when the San Antonio Spurs visit Staples Center tonight.

After victories over the Memphis Grizzlies and the Lakers to start the season, the Clippers could have been 4-0 going into tonight’s playoff rematch against the Spurs. Instead, they’re only 2-2 and searching for answers.

The Clippers hoped to get off to a fast start, what with seven of their first nine games at home. So far, they are only 1-2 on their home court, missing a chance to bank a few more victories before their schedule gets a little more taxing later this month.

“We’ve just got to get better,” Paul said. “I think we’re one of those teams that it’s not going to matter whether we’re home or away. We just need to play right wherever we’re at. Road games are not going to affect us.”

Twenty-five turnovers Monday against the Cavaliers contributed mightily to the Clippers’ downfall. They had 16 turnovers Saturday against the Warriors, but missed five shots and two free throws and committed two giveaways to start the game.

“We haven’t done anything,” coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Everything right now is on paper and that doesn’t win you a lot of games. You have to go out there and perform and you have produce and execute and we haven’t done that the last two games.”

–Blake Griffin injury update

The Clippers aren’t overly concerned about power forward Blake Griffin’s ongoing struggles with a burst bursa sac in his right elbow, an injury that’s not expected to keep him from playing in tonight’s game against the Spurs.

Del Negro said he was a little worried about Griffin’s stiff neck after a collision during a drill during Tuesday’s practice, however. Del Negro said Griffin sat out roughly half of the team’s workout.

“Blake’s a tough kid,” Del Negro said. “He’ll fight through it.”

–Clippers scheduling change

The starting time of the Clippers’ game Nov. 17 against the Chicago Bulls was changed to 6 p.m., the NBA announced. It was originally scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. start as part of a day-night doubleheader with the NHL’s Kings. The NHL has locked out its players and the game has been cancelled.

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Clippers tumble again after another poor start

Tomorrow’s story tonight …

The Clippers needed one sound quarter to defeat the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night at Staples Center, one 12-minute span when the good outweighed the bad and their promise met their expectations.

After all their missed shots and misplays, the Clippers really only needed to master the game for the fourth quarter to subdue the more energetic Cavaliers and improve their record to 3-1 to start the season.

Didn’t happen.

The Cavaliers wouldn’t allow it, holding off the Clippers down the stretch with superb long-distance shooting from youthful guards Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving and taking a 108-101 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060.

Waiters swished two clutch 3-pointers and Irving hit another critical 3 for the Cavaliers after the Clippers rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to tie the score at 94-all with 4 1/2 minutes remaining in the game.

Waiters scored a team-leading 28 points, and Irving had 24.

The Clippers could have survived the Cavaliers’ onslaught and maybe even thrived if they had held a tighter grip on the ball, if they boxed out a little better and more often and if they had a better start than their sputtering first quarter.

The Clippers had a season-high 25 turnovers, gave up 18 offensive rebounds to the Cavaliers, surrendered 31 points in the first quarter and never led after Jamal Crawford completed a three-point play to make it 42-41 with 5:02 left in the half.

“This is our job to come out here and play, so we have to have that energy,”
Clippers point guard Chris Paul said after scoring 17 points, grabbing five rebounds and adding nine assists. “We have to come out ready to play and perform better than that.”

“In the fourth quarter we played with a chip on our shoulders,” Paul added. “We’ve got to do that from the jump.”

Actually, the Clippers raced to a 7-0 lead after 2 minutes, 15 seconds, forcing the Cavaliers to take a timeout in order to regroup. The rest of the first half didn’t go as well for the Clippers. The third quarter wasn’t anything to cheer either.

Cleveland led by as many as 13 points before the Clippers rallied. The Clippers tied it, but couldn’t get in front of the Cavaliers. It was a similar story Saturday, when the Clippers fell behind the Golden State Warriors and couldn’t get ahead of them.

The Warriors beat them 114-110.

“We have to do it, it’s as simple as that,” center DeAndre Jordan said of the Clippers’ lackluster starts, poor ballhandling and so-so rebounding the last two games. “We can’t keep talking about it. We can’t have too many excuses.”

Blake Griffin scored a team-leading 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting plus six rebounds for the Clippers (2-2), Crawford added 19 points in a reserve role, Caron Butler and Eric Bledsoe each scored 11 points and Jordan had 10 points.

None of the Clippers played with the gusto of the Cavaliers’ Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller, however. Varejao scored 15 points and grabbed a team-leading 15 rebounds and Zeller had 15 points and seven rebounds in a reserve role.

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Lamar Odom practices, hopes to play in Clippers opener

Tomorrow’s notebook today …

Lamar Odom practiced with his teammates Monday for the first time since they returned form China three weeks ago and said he hoped to play in the Clippers’ regular-season opener Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Odom also said he hoped he would be the “Lamar of 2010.” He wouldn’t say whether he believed he had something to prove to his detractors. He couldn’t say when his knees began to ache and declined to say whether he was overweight.

“I’ve won on the highest level,” he said during an occasionally pointed and often humorous 6 1/2-minute conversation with reporters. “After that, you just prove to yourself, can you do it again? I’m a competitor, a professional competitor, so …

“If it was chess, I would want to beat you. If it was a debate, I would want to beat you. I compete for a living. That’s what I do. If it’s (video games), I want to win. Game of cards. Shooting game. I compete against myself for a living.

“That’s what I’ve done since I can remember. So, having something to prove to myself, that’s always. If me and you were to race right now, I’d knock you down and try to beat you. I want to win. That’s what’s got me here.”

Perhaps that’s true, but the road has been a bumpy one recently for Odom.
In fact, he revealed last week he sought counseling during the summer, after a failed season with the Dallas Mavericks, after he demanded the Lakers trade him last December, after they tried and failed to deal him to the New Orleans Hornets.

Odom arrived for his second stint with the Clippers after a trade with Dallas last summer with his trademark smile and good humor. He also appeared to be carrying some extra baggage on his 6-foot-10 frame to start training camp.

After playing three exhibitions, including two in China, he went to the sideline because of sore knees. He finally returned to the practice court Monday and said he participated in “a little more than half” of the team’s workout.

“Feel good,” he said, smiling. “Still know how to play.”

Odom’s demeanor changed asked about the doubts of others.

“Part of our business is that people doubt you,” Odom said.

In a moment, he was cheerful again, laughing and joking.

“I was awesome,” Odom said, smiling as he recounted his play during the Clippers’ scrimmage. “Proving all the doubters wrong, hitting shots. Making passes. I hit a skyhook today, right in their face, all the doubters.”

Coach Vinny Del Negro said he would wait to see how Odom fares in today’s practice before saying whether he could play Wednesday against Memphis. Del Negro also said he’d increase Odom’s workload in today’s workout.

Injury updates

Del Negro said there continues to be no timetable for guard Chauncey Billups’ debut after he suffered a season-ending Achilles’ tendon injury last Feb. 16. Billups didn’t practice with his teammates Monday and is not expected to play Wednesday.

There also is no estimate as to when backup forward Grant Hill will be fit to make his Clippers debut. Hill said last Wednesday he would be sidelined for at least two more weeks because of a bone bruise in his right knee.

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Clippers waive Plaisted and Thorns

The Clippers moved two steps closer to finalizing their regular season roster Thursday when they waived center/power forward Trent Plaisted and point guard Hank Thorns. The Clippers played their final exhibition game Thursday evening against the Nuggets in Denver. They open the regular season next Wednesday against the Memphis Grizzlies at Staples Center.

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Clippers start the season the right way

The Clippers’ 101-92 season-opening victory over the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night at Staples Center was many things at many times. Mostly, it was wild and frantic and physical and tons of fun for the Clippers.

It also looked like a continuation of the teams’ first-round playoff series last spring, won by the Clippers in seven taut games. At times, it also had the feel of another exhibition game, by turns sloppy and filled with moments of indecision.

When the game got tight and only a few points separated the teams, the Clippers had enough in reserve to hold off the Grizzlies in front of a sellout crowd of 19,060. Backup guard Jamal Crawford scored a team-leading 29 points in his Clippers debut.

Blake Griffin and Zach Randolph, his Grizzlies counterpart at power forward, got tangled up several times in the closing minutes.

Randolph’s takedown of Griffin after a key Chris Paul basket was very much like a professional wrestling move.

“Yeah, the first game after the series we had with them last year, you’d expect that a little bit,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said of the rough stuff. “It’s going to be a physical thing. We enjoy that. We have plenty of depth now.”

The Clippers built an early 12-point lead, thanks in large part to the energetic play of Crawford and their second unit. The Grizzlies erased it all by halftime and it was clear this wouldn’t be an easy opening-night stroll for either team.
When the Clippers surged late, they did so forcefully. Paul gave them a 91-86 lead with a jump shot from 14 feet with 4 minutes, 18 seconds remaining, and the crowd bellowed ever louder. Paul scored only 12 points and Griffin added 11.

Later, Paul tossed a lob pass to DeAndre Jordan for a thunderous dunk that gave the Clippers a 100-91 lead with 1:05 remaining.

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