Building Together

Eric Patten, | 12/6/11

Two very revealing facts about the Clippers came about from the nearly five months between the inception of the NBA lockout and the league’s players and owners reaching a tentative agreement over Thanksgiving weekend: the team is diligently committed to building something together and Los Angeles sure isn’t a bad place to do it.

Led by reigning Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin and veteran point guard Mo Williams, the Clippers worked out as a group on numerous occasions throughout their extended summer.

“Mo Williams and Blake, those were the two guys who kept in contact with everyone and gave us a four or five days heads up; like next week we want you guys to come and work out,” said forward Ryan Gomes, who also spent time working on “everything” individually in an attempt to bounce back from what he deemed a less than productive season in 2010-11. He finished last year with career lows in points (7.2 per game), rebounds (3.3), and shooting percentage (41%).

“We tried to stay in contact as much as we could even though we couldn’t stay in contact with our coaches,” Gomes added. “But as players we wanted to make sure we were still on the same page and working hard.”

They played in pickup games around town and reserved gym time at a Manhattan Beach high school, but the most significant group work came during a weeklong “camp” at Loyola Marymount University.

“Blake got the guys together, caught the guys up, got them in here, came and worked out at LMU,” guard Randy Foye said. “[We lifted] weights together, did everything like it was a small training camp. It was great.”

Foye suggested the experience was as much about bonding and team chemistry as it was about basketball. And Williams called the activities, “really beneficial for us as a team.”

For Gomes, it didn’t hurt that it meant leaving the humid summer on the East Coast for the L.A. beaches.

“It feels great to come out here in this weather and work out and then have the rest of the day to go do what you like to do,” Gomes said. “I would say if [Griffin] was in Oklahoma City [his hometown] we would probably be going there, too. But it’s probably more likely that we would be coming here.”

Listening to Foye and Gomes, two of the most experienced players on the roster, it sounds as though Griffin is seizing a more vocal leadership role in his third professional season.

At the same time, Griffin, ever frustrated by losing, pointed to what the Clippers have in mind collectively.

“First and foremost our goal is to make the playoffs. We have to get on that right out of the gate and establish ourselves,” he said, alluding to the team’s 5-21 start last season. “Everyone is ready to go, so we can’t wait to get back out there.”

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