Lakers' Steve Blake back at practice

BOSTON -- The much maligned Los Angeles Lakers bench could receive an unexpected boost Thursday against the Boston Celtics.

Lakers guard Steve Blake was medically cleared and returned to practice Wednesday and will be a game-time decision for the Celtics game after being out of the lineup since Jan. 11 with a costrochaondral fracture, which is the a fracture of the cartilage connecting the rib to the sternum.

"I've just been patient with it, trying to let it heal," Blake said. "I really had no preconception of when I was coming back. I didn't know if it was going to be sooner or later. I really had no idea. To me, it's on time."

Blake's return coincides with the 3-4 week timetable the team provided after the initial diagnosis, but is somewhat surprising considering Lakers coach Mike Brown said before the Lakers started their season-long six game road trip last week that he did not expect Blake to be available during the trip.

"[Practice] felt good," Blake said. "My rhythm is a little off, but that will come with time. Hopefully whenever I do play, I'll be ready to play and able to contribute."

Blake leads all Lakers substitutes with a 7.3 points per game average, but has missed the last 13 games with the injury and L.A. has gone 6-7 in that time.

Blake's return to the second unit couldn't come at a better time as the Lakers' bench was outscored 98-28 combined in the last two games by Utah's and Philadelphia's benches, contributing to two losses for the Lakers.

Brown remained cautious when considering how Blake's services could help correct that trend.

"I'm not going to go there until I know he can play and then when he does, then obviously I'll get excited about it and talk about it," Brown said. "Otherwise, my rookies better get their behinds ready because [Rajon] Rondo is no joke."

Brown was referring to rookie guards Darius Morris and Andrew Goudelock. Goudelock flourished in Blake's absence, particularly of late, averaging 10.3 points on 50.9 percent shooting overall and 50.0 percent on 3-pointers in his last seven games.

"I would imagine we would [play together]," Blake said of a backcourt lineup of him and Goudelock in the game at the same time. "He's played really well, he's shown that he can be out there and he can contribute, so I'd imagine we would be out there together."

Like Brown, Blake would not clear himself for the Celtics game quite yet.

"I'll see how I feel [Wednesday night] and [Thursday] after getting a practice in and after taking some shots and get through shootaround," Blake said. "Once I get over here [for the game], then we'll decide."

Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.