Grant Hill draws closer to his Clippers debut after two pain-free practices

Grant Hill couldn’t say for certain Tuesday whether he would play in the Clippers’ home game Wednesday against the Dallas Mavericks. After a light practice Monday and a more strenuous one Tuesday, he made it sound as if it would only be a matter of time before he makes his long-delayed and much-anticipated 2012-13 debut.

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Jamal Crawford sits out Clippers game against Warriors

Jamal Crawford got a new pair of shoes Saturday.

He got a new orthopedic insert for his new sneakers, too.

Crawford’s participation for the Clippers’ game against the Golden State Warriors at Staples Center was a game-time decision. That decision was, no. He didn’t play for the second consecutive game after a pair of worn-out sneakers led to a sore left foot.

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Clippers guard Jamal Crawford can’t play against the Lakers

Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford sat out Friday’s showdown with the Lakers because of a sore left foot, an injury he said was brought on by a pair of comfortable but worn-out sneakers. He hurt himself during the Clippers’ loss Tuesday against the Denver Nuggets.

Crawford, a backup who averages 16.5 points, played in Wednesday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors, but only because starting small forward Caron Butler missed the game because of personal reasons. He acknowledged the possibility of hurting it further by playing against the Warriors.

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Chauncey Billups to return to Clippers lineup tonight against T-Wolves

Chauncey Billups will make his season debut tonight against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Clippers announced today on their website. Billups hasn’t played in a game since tearing his left Achilles’ tendon during a game Feb. 6 at Orlando.

“We are all excited to have Chauncey back,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro told reporters at the morning shootaround. “I know how hard he has worked to get to this point and we are looking forward to incorporating him into the lineup.”

Billups will start at the shooting guard position, rejoining point guard Chris Paul in the Clippers’ backcourt. Willie Green, who started the season’s first 14 games in place of Billups, will shift to a reserve role.

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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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