Before this season tipped off, Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin signed a five-year, $173 million extension to remain with the club.
It was a mutually-beneficial deal, as it gave Griffin the maximum amount of money he could have possibly earned in a maximum extension and guaranteed that the Clippers kept two-thirds of their trio of Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Griffin in tact after CP3 was dealt to the Houston Rockets.
Over his first 19 games of the season, Griffin averaged 23.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 35.8 minutes per contest. The team struggled, however, going 8-11 with him in the lineup, which was likely the clear after-effect of losing Paul, their former floor general.
On November 27, Griffin got tangled up with teammate Austin Rivers and Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball, all of whom were going after a loose ball. After fearing the worst, the Clippers were relieved to find out that Griffin sprained his knee and avoided any major damage.
They've gone 6-8 since he went down with the injury.
Before their victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night, coach Doc Rivers made a stunning declaration about Griffin's progress. Although he was slated to be out for a minimum of eight weeks when team doctors made the initial diagnosis, the face of the franchise is way ahead of schedule.
"Will he play tonight? No. Will he play the next game? He actually could," Rivers said in his pregame availability Tuesday, per Law Murray of ESPN. "He's that close. I didn't say he would. I said he actually could."
"Yeah. I haven't seen him do a lot of live stuff, just one-on-ones, so I think that's good to see," Austin Rivers said. "It's always encouraging to see some guys who haven't been able to play get back out there."
Griffin's next opportunity to return to action will come on Friday, when the Clippers take on the Lakers. They will then take part in a matchup against the Charlotte Hornets on Sunday.
Although the team is deficient in important areas even with Griffin on the floor and is not guaranteed success with him there, his presence will certainly be a positive for a club that is already without Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari, both of whom began the season in the starting lineup.