DALLAS (AP) -Here's some potentially bad news for the Rockets, Nuggets, Lakers, Warriors and Hornets: Elton Brand is close to coming back.
After missing the entire season recovering from a surgically repaired left Achilles' tendon, the former All-Star forward said Tuesday expects to rejoin the Los Angeles Clippers in time to play the final six games - all against those teams jockeying for spots in the tightly packed Western Conference playoff race.
The Clippers playing spoiler? It may not be a joke.
``Hey, we got spoiled last season, so if we could do that, we'd love to,'' Brand said before Los Angeles' game against the Mavericks. ``We're there to play. If I can be out there and contribute to our team getting some wins, I want to do it.''
Brand went through a full-court scrimmage Monday, the best sign yet that he's almost ready. Another good indication was that he woke up Tuesday without any soreness.
``It was great to get some cardio and run and actually have some real bump,'' Brand said. ``I was below standard, but I wasn't as bad as I thought.''
The Clippers have 12 games left. Coach Mike Dunleavy said Brand might be able to play as many as eight, which would mean April 2 at Seattle. The Clippers are at Sacramento the next night.
After those games against fellow also-rans, Los Angeles returns home to play Houston, Denver and the Lakers. Then the Clippers end the season on the road against the Warriors, Hornets and Rockets.
``We've been ultraconservative with this,'' Dunleavy said. ``We're not bringing him back soon by any means. ... If he didn't feel like he wasn't ready do it, then I wouldn't want to do it. He's the one who's champing at the bit. So we'll see how it goes.''
The Clippers made the playoffs two seasons ago and were in the chase all the way to the final week last season. With three games left, Los Angeles and Golden State were tied for the final spot. The Warriors went 3-0 and the Clippers 1-2.
Then Brand went down Aug. 3 and Los Angeles has been a non-factor this season.
``We've really regressed,'' said Brand, among the few active players with a career average of 20 points and 10 rebounds. ``This year, it's like we didn't have a chance.''
Dunleavy and Brand compared the ongoing workouts as Brand's version of training camp. They've been limited by the fact teams don't hold many intense workouts this time of year - especially teams that are more than 25 games under .500.
``I want him to be playing at a high level,'' the coach added. ``I don't want to throw him out there if he's not in good shape because he's liable to get hurt.''
Why come back at all this season?
``There's something worth salvaging, being part of this team and growing for next year,'' Brand said. ``If I'm healthy, I want to play. The fans want to see a good product. They want to see me out there with the team. ... I've been rehabbing, working my tail off for so long. It's to play in NBA games.''
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