BLEDSOE BACK ON COURT IN PRACTICE
PLAYA VISTA – After sitting and watching practice for the last two weeks, Eric Bledsoe returned to the court Friday morning.
The dynamic guard, who scored in double figures a career-high 31 times this season, has missed five consecutive games with a sore left calf that he sustained on Feb. 21 against the San Antonio Spurs.
He attempted to play through the injury for nearly two weeks before Head Coach Vinny Del Negro and the Clippers' training staff decided to shut him down after Bledsoe played 15 minutes in a loss to Denver Mar. 7 because the injury was "not getting better."
After Bledsoe participated in the hour and a half-long workout Friday, Del Negro said, “I thought he looked good. I haven’t talked to him or the trainer yet, but he was out there running around like he does.”
Bledsoe, along with Chauncey Billups (strained right groin), will likely take part in shoot-around Saturday before a determination is made regarding their status against the Brooklyn Nets later that night.
“Chauncey practiced but he didn’t do any contact,” Del Negro said. “Both of those guys will be evaluated tomorrow after shoot-around and I’ll have a better feel tomorrow before the game.”
Bledsoe’s ability to pressure defenses and use his speed and athleticism to disrupt opposing point guards helped shape the Clippers’ bench into one of best defensive units in the league when he was on the floor.
The bench unit consisting of Bledsoe, Matt Barnes, Jamal Crawford, Lamar Odom and Ronny Turiaf allows just 89.5 points per 100 possessions. That group has played 270 minutes together, the second most of any five-man unit on the team. But Turiaf has missed the last three games with a sore knee and Bledsoe has not been himself since a few days before the All-Star break when he scored 10 points with five assists in a blowout win at Philadelphia.
“He’s big for us,” Blake Griffin said. “He’s capable of changing the look of the game. When he comes in and dogs the ball defensively it just puts so much pressure on the other team, especially against the team’s second-string point guard.
“He pushes the ball. He’s so fast. He does a lot of great things for our second team and allows Jamal to play off the ball a little bit more and allows Matt Barnes to run the court and L.O. (Odom) and all those guys, so it definitely changes our dynamic when he’s not out there.”
In practice Friday, Bledsoe, who wore a black neoprene sleeve over his left leg, looked more like the player he was in November through mid-February. He scored in double-digits a career-high 31 times in that span and became a fixture on highlight shows for lurching behind a driving opponent and rejecting layups and dunks.
According to Willie Green, much of that explosiveness has returned.
“Fresh legs, man,” Green said when asked how Bledsoe looked in his first full practice since Feb. 20. “He was out there running around, Speedy Gonzalez as he is. He looked good. He’s over there getting some work right now, just trying to get his rhythm back. We need Bled (Bledsoe) back and we look forward to getting him back on the court.”