Clippers likely to rest starters against Lakers

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- Los Angeles Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro anticipates resting some of his starters on Wednesday when the Clippers face the Los Angeles Lakers in their final home preseason game. He’s just not sure which ones yet.

"I probably will," Del Negro said Tuesday. "I just don’t know who and how we’re going to do it yet. We’ll see where it’s at tomorrow.”

Del Negro’s comments came after Lakers coach Mike Brown said there’s a good chance Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard would miss Wednesday’s game as well.

When the Clippers were looking to rest players during their exhibition game last Saturday in Utah, they did not play Blake Griffin, Willie Green, Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups, Grant Hill or Lamar Odom. Billups, Hill and Odom will certainly be out Wednesday as they recuperate from injuries and Del Negro could look to rest Griffin, Butler and Green again.

Hill and Odom did not practice Tuesday and have not practiced or played since the team returned from an eight-day trip in China on Oct. 15. Both players are dealing with bone bruises in their knees and Odom is dealing with conditioning issues after coming into training camp overweight.

Neither player will be back during the preseason and the chances of either one being ready for the season opener Oct. 31 are beginning to look remote, given how long it has been since they’ve played and given Del Negro’s unwillingness to rush players back early in the season.

“I expect Lamar to be back sooner than Grant,” Del Negro said. “When that is, I don’t know. ... I’m just trying to take the pounding off of them with all the things we have here. Obviously, they’re two veteran guys. We’d love to have them out there but we also want to manage their injuries the correct way.”

Del Negro said he would know next week if either player would be back in time for the season opener but didn’t seem optimistic given their lack of practice time.

“They’ll have to get some practices in,” Del Negro said. “We’ll see after Monday and Tuesday’s practice.”

While Hill and Odom have been out of practice for nearly two weeks, Billups has been on the practice court participating in full contract drills. His return, however, is still up in the air after he missed most of last season with a torn left Achilles tendon

“I wanted him back yesterday,” Del Negro said of Billups. “When he says he’s ready, he’ll be out there. ... I’d rather him take another week or two and make sure it’s right. He looks good out there, he’s in good condition, but he still needs to play."