Chris Paul could return Friday against the Heat. (Rocky Widner/Getty Images)
The Los Angeles Clippers expect to have their All-Star point guard and MVP candidate Chris Paul back in the lineup on Friday as the team travels to South Florida for a marquee matchup against the Miami Heat.
According to a report late Wednesday night from Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News, the Clippers are "optimistic" that the team will have both Paul and Chauncey Billups back for the game on Friday. Paul hasn't played since Jan. 21 because of a bruised right knee cap, while Billups has missed all but three games this season with peroneal tendinitis, an inflamed tendon, in his left foot.
The Clippers currently sit atop the Pacific Division with a 35-16 record, good for fourth overall in the NBA, but have gone 3-6 since Paul went down. The team has also been without its star power forward, Blake Griffin, for the past two games as he deals with a strained left hamstring.
Overall, regarding all of the injuries that have plagued the Clippers throughout the season, head coach Vinny del Negro has repeatedly said that he is focused on the big picture and is more concerned with the health of his roster for the playoffs than how the team fares in the first half of the season.