Posted: Thursday August 23, 2012 12:45PM ; Updated: Thursday August 23, 2012 1:23PM
Sam Amick
Sam Amick>INSIDE THE NBA

NBA players on the mend (cont.)

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Blake Griffin
Blake Griffin is expected to be ready for NBA training camp after tearing his medial meniscus in Olympic training.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

"There's no timetable right now," he said. "Whenever [the doctor] says, 'Dwight, you're free to play,' then I'll get back on the court. Until then, I'm going to continue to rehab and get my back stronger. I haven't lost any weight, which is good, and I'm looking forward to getting back on the court.

"If I'm ready for opening night, then I'll be there, but I'm not going to rush it. A back is very serious, so I want to take my time and make sure I get back 100 percent, because I want to give everybody 100 percent. Not 80, 90 percent. I want to give you guys everything I have."

The Lakers have options in the interim, and a team source said a strong possibility would be a starting frontcourt of Pau Gasol and recently re-signed Jordan Hill with newly added forward Antawn Jamison coming off the bench. Hill's rim-protecting presence may be necessary with the defensively challenged Jamison and Steve Nash in the lineup.

Clippers

Just a hunch here, but I'm guessing the Clippers' brass had mixed emotions about the Team USA experience.

On the one hand, their point guard showed off his championship chops by leading the Americans to gold and reminding the masses why he's such a star. On the other hand, Chris Paul tore a ligament in his right thumb during Las Vegas training camp in July and didn't have it repaired until Aug. 21 because, well, patriotism comes with a price. In this case, the price is an eight-week recovery time.

Then there's the case of Blake Griffin. That their franchise centerpiece forward was also selected to the national team was the latest sign that these aren't your parents' or your grandparents' Clippers. But Griffin suffered a medial meniscus tear at the ill-fated training camp that took him out of the Games and onto the operating table for a July 16 surgery.

Griffin is expected to be fully healthy and ready for training camp, but it's still a setback because of how it changed his offseason. Despite so many league executives privately wishing their players didn't play internationally, few dispute that players often have much-improved NBA seasons upon return. There's a value in being around the greatest talents on the planet, in learning from some of the best coaches in the game. Yet instead of spending a month in the most elite of NBA classrooms, Griffin -- who was shortchanged last summer because of the lockout that prohibited him from working out with the team's coaching staff -- was rehabbing his way back to square one.

Meanwhile, Paul likely will miss the majority of the most important preseason in franchise history. Paul is entering the final year of his contract, and a smooth start would have been better for all involved -- especially considering the Chauncey Billups situation.

Billups tore his left Achilles on Feb. 7 and told the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday that he's hoping to return before the regular season. He has yet to be cleared for five-on-five activity and it remains possible that his hopes won't be realized.

"I think it's going to be close, but I'm shooting to be ready for the regular season," said the veteran guard, who re-signed as a free agent on a one-year deal reportedly worth up to $4.3 million.

In the interim, third-year point guard Eric Bledsoe will see a serious spike in his playing time while new additions Jamal Crawford (via free agency) and Willie Green (via trade from Atlanta) will help keep the battered backcourt afloat.

Timberwolves

Ricky Rubio has waited to play in the NBA before, but this is different.

The two-year delay between draft day 2009 (when he was the Timberwolves' No. 5 pick) and his arrival was by his own volition, part of a strategy -- heavily scrutinized though it may have been -- designed to maximize his eventual impact in the league. He stayed and played in Spain until last season, when he made his stateside debut to little fanfare in a charity game in San Francisco before eventually wowing much larger crowds with his selfless style and thrilling play.

Rubio was the most talked-about player in the league until Lin-sanity took over in New York, working alongside resident star forward Kevin Love to lead the T'wolves to a 21-19 mark (an 11-game improvement from the prior season) before a seemingly innocuous collision with Bryant on March 9 ended his season. Now, Rubio's wait is far from over.

Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry missed 40 games for the Warriors last season because of ankle injuries.
Cary Edmondson-US PRESSWIRE

More than five months after Rubio tore his ACL and LCL against the Lakers that night, Minnesota owner Glen Taylor told the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Aug. 14 that Rubio will be out at least until December.

"The doctors said he was progressing faster than normal, and normal was supposed to be in January," Taylor told the newspaper. "Faster than normal would be December. He's going to start running and stuff in a few weeks."

A team spokesman said Rubio is currently rehabilitating in Spain, and that at least one member of the team's training staff -- between the head athletic trainer, assistant trainer and physical therapist -- has been with him every day during the summer.

As if Rubio's devastating injury wasn't bad enough, the situation was compounded late last season when his replacements J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour, along with small forward Michael Beasley and emerging center Nikola Pekovic all missed significant time with injuries. Minnesota lost 20 of its final 25 games.

Warriors

Give Andrew Bogut this much: he understands the rules of this game as much as anyone.

Sure, the Warriors will look smart if he returns to full health and plays like the sort of top-five center they believed they were getting in the March 14 trade with Milwaukee that cost them locally beloved shooting guard Monta Ellis and promising big man Ekpe Udoh. Sure, a backcourt of Stephen Curry and second-year sharpshooter Klay Thompson could be productive if the chemistry clicks and the trainers aren't needed like they have been in years past. Sure, adding veterans Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry along with rookies Harrison Barnes (North Carolina small forward), Festus Ezeli (Vanderbilt center) and Draymond Green (Michigan State small forward) to coach Mark Jackson's group should help with badly needed depth if the starters stay standing.

It's the difference, in other words, between an "If" team and an "It" team.

"I'm excited, man," Bogut said in a conference call on Sunday. "It's the most productive that a franchise [for which he's played] has been since I've been around. We've made a lot of great moves.

"One thing I will say is that we look good on paper, but we still have to go out there and win games. Paper doesn't really mean much."

Unless it's a clearance paper from the resident doctors, of course. Bogut, who missed 54 of 66 games last season because of his broken left ankle (he had loose particles and bone spurs removed from the ankle on April 27), made it clear that he doesn't expect to be 100 percent by the start of training camp and may miss some -- or at least part of some -- preseason games. He only began light jogging on a treadmill last week in his native Australia, and said it will probably be "another couple of weeks" until he's allowed to go full speed on a court. Bogut does, however, anticipate being ready for the start of the regular season.

"Hopefully that will still give me enough time to get ready for training camp, but I don't anticipate not being ready for the first [regular-season] game," Bogut said. "That's my goal."

Curry, who missed 40 games last season because of ankle injuries and had surgery on his right ankle for the second time in less than a year on April 25, is the safer bet to be fully healthy during the preseason. He has yet to take part in five-on-five action, but has otherwise been working out at full speed with no setbacks.

"No, none at all," he told reporters last week when asked if he had any doubts he'd be ready for the start of the regular season. "The whole point of having surgery when I did and being patient with my rehab was so that on Oct. 31 I wouldn't have restrictions or hesitancy about going out and playing. That's what's going to happen."

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