LOS ANGELES — Clippers guard Austin Rivers looked anxious as he laced up his shoes Tuesday night. He was about to warm up for Game 5 against the Utah Jazz at Staples Center, and he acknowledged feeling impatient in his first game since a left hamstring injury sidelined him for the previous 11 games.
“I just want to have an impact, play hard and bring energy,” Rivers said beforehand. “All the things will come and lead to that. I’ve tried not to make it bigger than what it is.”
Rivers, who averaged 12 points per game this season, acknowledged he “wanted to play last week,” but he was confined then to running drills. The Clippers cleared him after he spent the past four days completing a series of workouts. The Clippers welcomed Rivers’ return, and Jazz coach Quin Snyder called him a “unique player” before praising his 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, quickness, ball handling and ability to finish.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers still sounded unsure, though, what his son could provide on a playing time restriction off the bench that would exceed 12 minutes.
“I don’t know what Austin’s going to do honestly. He hasn’t played,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I don’t expect a lot. I’m hoping for a lot, but you don’t just miss games and show up and start playing. we need another body. That’s what he’s going to do for us.”
Austin Rivers returned shortly after the Clippers ruled forward Blake Griffin out for the rest of the playoffs after injuring his right toe in Game 3. Doc Rivers also welcomed his son’s return because of his ability to attack the basket.
With Austin not playing since March 29, he predicted he would feel “winded” before noting he worked out in Salt Lake City, where the altitude is higher. But Austin added he did not feel he needed to pace himself.
“I don’t know any other way. If i try to be someone else, I’m not going to be effective,” Austin Rivers said. “I would never play just to play. I would only play if I knew i could give it my best and play hard.”
WHAT UP, DOC?
Austin Rivers acknowledged feeling heartbroken for Griffin when he found out about his teammate’s toe injury.
“It’s hard to be mad or feel bad that I missed two or three weeks when I got my teammate Blake over here out 4 to 6 months,” Austin Rivers said. “That’s a real injury. Not to say mine’s not. But stuff like that puts everything in perspective.”
Griffin is expected to have surgery on his right toe after meeting with a doctor on Tuesday. But he will be reevaluated at least two more times before making a definitive decision.
“There’s no determination yet,” Doc Rivers said of Griffin’s likely surgery. “He’s had one (doctor’s visit), but he has to have several more. We’re not going to say anything until everything’s done.”
Doc Rivers was more expansive on how his players reacted to Griffin’s injury.
“You can feel the sting when they found out the news. They were…