SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Blake Griffin woke up Monday with his sprained left knee not feeling worse, but not really much better. Rest is the only remedy, a luxury the Los Angeles Clippers don’t have, and doctors guess he might miss two weeks if this were the regular season.
Griffin? He says he will play in Game 1 on Tuesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro is making no such guarantees.
“I don’t know yet,” Del Negro said Monday. “I’ll make that decision tomorrow after shootaround, after I talk to the trainer.”
Griffin doesn’t think that conversation will be necessary.
Griffin said there is “no doubt” about his availability for the start of the Western Conference semifinals, which start two days after the hobbled All-Star played fewer than two minutes in the fourth quarter of a Game 7 win at Memphis. His injury is the most worrisome for the banged-up Clippers: All-Star Chris Paul said Monday that his bothersome right hip is OK, and forward Caron Butler is expected to play despite his broken left hand.
Following a light shootaround and film session Monday, Griffin put his health between 75 percent and 80 percent.
“Hopefully more than that, but realistically, probably about that,” he said. “But my knee hasn’t gotten worse. That’s the encouraging thing. It just needs time, and we haven’t had much of it.”
They’ve barely had any at all.
The Clippers flew straight to Texas from Memphis on Sunday night, leaving them little time to savor one of the biggest wins in the woeful 41-year history of the franchise. Never had the Clippers won a Game 7 before Sunday, and this marks only the third time they’ve advanced to the second round of the playoffs.
Then there are the Spurs.
Few things about the No. 1 seed in the West could be more different than the Clippers, and not just in terms of franchise history. While the worn-out Clippers are facing their sixth game in 11 days, the Spurs haven’t played for eight days since sweeping Utah in the first round.
That the Spurs are not the most hobbled team in a playoff series is a refreshing change of pace for them. Winners of 14 in a row — one of the NBA’s six-longest winning streaks sustained in the playoffs since 1986 — the Spurs are not just well rested but also in unusually good health for this time of year.
They’re also in a good mood: After the Clippers won Sunday, Spurs guard Tony Parker sent Paul a text message.
“See you soon,” Parker wrote.
What took the Clippers so long, anyway?
“I was kind of expecting to play on Sunday,” Manu Ginobili said. “The uncertainty is not always good. I came here (Saturday) thinking I was going to know, and then I didn’t. It’s demotivating. Because you can’t prepare for nobody.”
The Spurs won two of three meetings with the Clippers this season, their only loss coming when Parker sat out with a sore thigh. That was March 9; the Spurs have lost only three more times since then, and once was when coach Gregg Popovich didn’t play Parker, Ginobili and Tim Duncan so his stars could rest.
By Monday afternoon, the Clippers were so starved for rest that Griffin was talking about the Game 7 afternoon start almost as though it were a blessing, because it gave them another precious half-day to recover.
“Going through a seven-game series is definitely exhausting,” Griffin said. “We may have some guys that are a little beat-up. That’s how it is. But a lot of teams have that, and we can’t use that as an excuse.”
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.