AP Photo
April 02, 2016

LOS ANGELES (AP) Blake Griffin returns to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday after a three-month absence caused by hand and quadriceps injuries.

''I'm not going to come back playing like I did 20 games in,'' said Griffin, who hurt his hand punching the team's assistant equipment manager and was suspended four games. ''The biggest thing is not to force anything early.''

Coach Doc Rivers said Griffin will likely start against the Washington Wizards at Staples Center. It will be the first of seven games for Griffin before the playoffs.

Griffin practiced last weekend for the first time since December and said after practice Saturday he will need to be patient in re-establishing his power game. He hasn't played since Christmas Day, when he partially tore a left quadriceps tendon. Griffin was averaging 23.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists at the time.

Rivers said it's unknown how many minutes Griffin can play after not being able to run and maintain his conditioning. Another issue is how much pain will be caused by playing.

''You just got to be careful,''' he said. ''You don't want to throw a guy out there and him get injured because you're overplaying him.'''

The Clippers had a 30-15 record during his absence, which was extended after Griffin broke his hand and was suspended by the team for punching Matias Testi in January in Toronto.

''This past week was especially tough having to sit for four games,'' Griffin said. ''I'm just ready to get back out there and ready to feel good again and feel the leg out, see how it feels.''

Griffin was close to returning earlier from the quad injury, but he was forced to scale back his workouts because the tear wasn't being allowed to heal.

''A small tear became a three-month thing because I wasn't doing the right thing until we figured it out,'' he said. ''Everything I was doing was putting more stress on my knee.''

Griffin said he probably will have to address the injury this offseason.

''I don't know how serious of an addressing it will be, but it might be,'' he said.

Meanwhile, forward Branden Dawson was back with the team Saturday, three weeks after he was arrested on suspicion of spousal abuse and was released on $50,000 bail.

''It's resolved as far as we're comfortable with where it's at,''' Rivers said. ''But they (police) still haven't announced anything, so we still have to wait.''

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