After about a two-week break, the superstar point guard returned from North Carolina to work out at the Clippers’ Playa Vista training center Monday morning and was joined at the facility by Eric Bledsoe, who returned to work Monday as well, Travis Leslie, Trey Thompkins, Blake Griffin, and free-agent-to-be Chauncey Billups.
“Right now I’m trying to keep my body in the right shape,” Paul said. “It’s just trying to get your conditioning back and stuff like that.”
He looked lean and healthy, playing shirtless for most of the session, something he rarely did during the 2011-12 season. In addition to conditioning exercises, he took the court for games of two-on-two with Leslie, Thompkins, and Bledsoe. As assistant coach Robert Pack looked on, he also worked with the young guards for more than 45 minutes of one-on-one, battling the bigger bodied Leslie in the post, cutting off Bledsoe’s driving angles, and finding his usual creative ways to generate space and fire away step-back jumpers.
Getting back in the gym was twofold for Paul.
First, he’s finally moving past the troublesome groin and hip injuries that forced him to miss the Clippers’ regular-season finale against the New York Knicks and nagged him throughout their 11-game postseason run.
“I’m feeling a lot better,” Paul said when asked about his recovery. “Our training staff, to me, is the best in the league and as soon as the season was over we did a few things to get me back right.”
The best indication of how spry he felt likely came when he threw down a two-handed dunk off a setup from Griffin as the two joked around before leaving the court.
Of course, Paul’s health will be paramount as he prepares to start at point guard for Team USA at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“[The offseason] was very brief,” Paul said. “It’s such an odd summer with the Olympics because usually you use the summer do that different type stuff [individual drills], but right now I’m just trying to get back ready to play.”
The Olympic team opens training camp July 6 in Las Vegas, where the roster of 12 will be selected among as many as 18 possible candidates, including Paul and Griffin.
While Paul, who was a member of the 2008 Gold Medalists known as the “Redeem Team” in Beijing, is a lock to make the squad, he said there will be a newfound emphasis on taking in the experience.
“I’m going to enjoy it,” he said. “Expectations are always high. And we set expectations for ourselves. This right here will probably be my last Olympics, so I’m going to go out there and cherish it and enjoy it.”
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