LOS ANGELES (AP) — Chris Paul will be ready to play by the Los Angeles Clippers’ season opener on Oct. 31, barely two months after the All-Star guard had right thumb surgery.
He said Friday at the team’s media day that he’s doing therapy daily and focusing on restoring the mobility in his wrist.
“I shot a jump shot the other day and it felt like it was good and it was an air ball,” Paul said. “It’s all going to come back. When I’m at home I’m doing exercises to get ready. I just know I’ll be ready for the first game. I would definitely love to play in an exhibition game, but we’ll see how it goes.”
The Clippers play their first preseason game on Oct. 6 against Denver in Las Vegas. They leave six days later for a trip to China, where they’ll play two games against the defending NBA champion Miami Heat.
“It shows what the league expects of us,” third-year coach Vinny Del Negro said about the Clippers being chosen for the exhibition trip.
Paul’s fellow All-Star, Blake Griffin, is fully recovered from left knee surgery on July 16 and will participate when practice opens Saturday. He’s spent time working with a coach hired by the team to improve his jumper and free throw shooting, along with that of DeAndre Jordan.
“We changed some stuff to streamline and be less error-prone,” Griffin said.
Media day at the Clippers’ practice facility was more crowded than it’s been in years, the result of the team’s flurry of offseason moves that brought in a veteran group to bolster the bench.
The new additions include Lamar Odom, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill, Ryan Hollins, and Ronny Turiaf. Odom, Barnes and Turiaf are former Lakers, with Odom and Barnes returning for their second stints with the Clippers.
“We’re up there with anybody,” Griffin said. “We can play with anybody. With our talent and depth, we can go toe-to-toe with whoever it is.”
Chauncey Billups isn’t ready to go yet. The guard who turned 36 earlier this week has only been cleared to take part in limited team drills as he rehabs from the left Achilles tendon surgery he had in February. That injury that ended his season early and cost him a spot on the gold medal-winning U.S. team in the London Olympics.
“Everything is good. Been working my tail off ever since I got hurt,” said Billups, who chose to remain in Los Angeles to rehab, which kept him away from his family. “I’m not able to play 5-on-5 yet, but I will practice.”
Billups said he expects to return “way before” January or February.
For Odom, returning to the team that drafted him in 1999 is “a little out of body. It’s a little surreal.” He spent four seasons with the Clippers before being traded to Miami and then joining the Lakers for two NBA championships.
Odom is coming off a disastrous last season in Dallas, where he was abruptly traded by the Lakers. He was unhappy playing 50 games with the Mavericks before the team gave up on him in March.
Odom said he’s in a “happy place” mentally and excited about joining a Clippers team on the verge of contending for its first championship after years of languishing in the NBA’s basement.
“This team is built to compete against the best teams in the NBA,” he said. “That should be our goal to start. Then let’s learn about our strengths and weaknesses.”