Blake Griffin returns vs. Rockets

LOS ANGELES -- Clippers star forward Blake Griffin returned Sunday against the Rockets after missing the past 15 games because of an elbow injury.

Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow. He had returned to full workouts without limitations while the team was on the road this week and was cleared to play Sunday.

"He said I'm ready," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "Yesterday the trainers called me and said, 'If he can go, he can go. He's been cleared.'"

The Clippers went 9-6 during Griffin's absence, and Rivers said timing may be the only adjustment early on for him.

"Timing is timing," Rivers said. "You lose it when you don't play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn't. As far as the way we play, it won't be hard for him at all."

Rivers said incorporating Griffin back into the lineup would not be hard and would be similar to when the Clippers brought back Chris Paul after the All-Star point guard missed 18 games last season with a separated shoulder.

"Not having Blake has hurt us in a lot of ways," Rivers said. "Teams have been able to trap CP far more than they can when Blake's on the floor because of his ability to pass. I'm sure CP is the happiest of all of them to get him back.

"You do find things when people are out. We're finding things with Jamal [Crawford] out. We're finding different things to do and all you do is incorporate that and the guy coming back has to learn what we're doing differently, but he doesn't change his game at all."

Crawford's return does not look as promising after suffering a right calf contusion on March 2. He is still not able to run, and Rivers isn't sure when he will be able to return.

"There hasn't been much movement, and I don't think he's improved at all," Rivers said. "That's obviously not good news."