TRAINING CAMP CENTRAL

TRAINING CAMP UPDATE
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/20/11


Clippers Head Coach Vinny Del Negro has a habit of repeating himself.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing. He is constantly saying that the team has a lot of work to put in, that they need to play with energy or that they need improve every day.

Del Negro’s chat with the media following practice on Tuesday, Dec. 20 was no different.

“I was pleased with the way we practiced today more than the performance last night just from the standpoint of we came in with a good focus,” Del Negro said. “I mean, we improved on some things last night but we really worked on some things in practice.”

The main points of emphasis on Tuesday were rebounding and defensive strategy.

The Clippers pulled away in Monday’s preseason opener by shooting 11-for-16 from 3-point range after halftime. But they gave the Lakers 41 free-throw attempts, were outrebounded 41-34, and allowed 52 percent shooting in the first half.

Discussing the positives following their 114-95 exhibition victory would have been easy, but the team seems focused on refining the things that may have gone wrong.

Asked if the Clippers’ performance was a sign of things to come, Chris Paul said he didn’t think so.

“It was just our first preseason game” Paul continued. “We had a lot of kinks out there, a lot of rough edges. But that’s why we come back in here today to get to work and try to minimize as many mistakes as possible.”

PRESSURE, WHAT PRESSURE?

With all of the newfound attention around the Clippers, it would seem that there would be a feeling of pressure to meet expectations.

However, Paul adamantly disagrees.

“We don’t feel any pressure. Who’s putting that pressure on us?” he said. “The thing is, at the end of the day we’re the players. We control what we can control and that’s the people who are in this organization who are in here at practice every day.”

While the team may not feel pressure, internally or externally, there is a sense that teams around the league may show the Clippers a little more attention than usual.

“We really do have a great outlook, but in all actuality we haven’t won a game yet,” guard Chauncey Billups said. “And the difficult thing is that everybody knows we should be a lot better, so we don’t have the advantage of sneaking up on teams anymore. Teams are going to be ready, you’re going to start getting teams’ best punch.”

PULL-UP THREE

Forward Brian Cook tweaked his ankle against the Lakers but practiced on Tuesday… During shooting drills center DeAndre Jordan made 9-of-10 free throws in one stretch. Jordan is a career 41.4 percent shooter from the line… Between Sunday’s open scrimmage and Monday’s exhibition game, rookie Trey Thompkins has made three of his first four shots from 3-point range. He was 79-of-221 in three seasons at the University of Georgia (35.7%).



CLIPPERS VS. LAKERS: PRESEASON GAME #1 PREVIEW
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/19/11


Talk about a primetime exhibition.

When the Clippers tip-off on Monday, Dec. 19 against the host Lakers, the atmosphere inside Staples Center will be unlike any preseason game in recent memory.

It’s the first NBA game at the arena in nearly seven months. It’s the opening matchup of the so-called “Hallway Rivalry” between the Clippers and their city-mates. And, most noticeably, it marks the in-arena debut of Chris Paul in Los Angeles… as a Clipper.

The saga of the Paul trade reads much like a soap opera, a 10-day escape that ultimately delivered the point guard to the Clippers.

READ ON



CLIPPERS VS. LAKERS: PRESEASON GAME #1: POSTGAME REPORT
Ryan Menezes, Clippers.com | 12/19/11


LOS ANGELES --- After pulling away in the second half for an easy 114-95 preseason win on their STAPLES Center co-tenant’s home floor, DeAndre Jordan wasn’t going to fuel any talk about a rivalry. As he pointed out, there are 28 other NBA teams the Clippers have to face.

“I don’t want it to be ‘Are you guys gonna be better than the Lakers?,’” Jordan said. “We can be better than the Lakers, but we still have to be better than everybody else.”

READ ON



CLIPPERS VS. LAKERS: PRESEASON GAME #1 PREVIEW
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/19/11


Talk about a primetime exhibition.

When the Clippers tip-off on Monday, Dec. 19 against the host Lakers, the atmosphere inside Staples Center will be unlike any preseason game in recent memory.

It’s the first NBA game at the arena in nearly seven months. It’s the opening matchup of the so-called “Hallway Rivalry” between the Clippers and their city-mates. And, most noticeably, it marks the in-arena debut of Chris Paul in Los Angeles… as a Clipper.

The saga of the Paul trade reads much like a soap opera, a 10-day escape that ultimately delivered the point guard to the Clippers.

READ ON



OPEN SCRIMMAGE AT GALEN CENTER
Clippers.com | 12/18/11


Players and Fans Team up at Scrimmage | Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES–Seven minutes into the Clippers open scrimmage on Sunday, December 18, Chris Paul pulled up from the top of the key and knocked down his first jumper.

The crowd of 6,607 at Galen Center seemed almost giddy with excitement as the All-NBA point guard’s shot bounced off the front of the rim before rolling in.

It was the first chance fans had to see the new-look Clippers, complete with the expectations that come with teaming a star like Paul and veterans Chauncey Billups and Caron Butler with Rookie of the Year Blake Griffin. They chanted for Billups, or “Mr. Big Shot” as he is known, with less than two minutes left in the scrimmage, which consisted of two 10-minute periods with a running clock and squads separated by blue and white practice jerseys.

READ ON

Fans Delight at Open Scrimmage | Ryan Menezes

The venue was different, but it felt a lot like Staples Center at the Clippers’ open scrimmage. The court had some red, chants of “Let’s go Clippers let’s go!” were back and so was the wave.

Before a crowd of 6,607 at Galen Center, an estimated 3,500 of which were season ticket holders, the Clippers provided fans their first taste of game action in over eight months. The red-versus-white scrimmage had fans waiting in line around nearly the entire perimeter of the arena before they flooded inside to watch the action.

READ ON

Scrimmage Highlights

Watch some of the top moments from the Clippers scrimmage at the Galen Center on LACtv.

Scrimmage Feedback

The Clippers reflect on where this team stands after their first full scrimmage together as they head into preseason play.


DAY 7 TRAINING CAMP NOTEBOOK
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/15/11


UPDATE: WITH PAUL AND BILLUPS IN THE WINGS, CLIPPERS HAVE ‘ONE OF BEST PRACTICES’

Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, the newest additions to the Clippers backcourt, did not practice the morning of Thursday, Dec. 15.

Paul cannot take part in activities with his new team until Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al-Farouq Aminu, who were dealt to the New Orleans Hornets as part of Wednesday night’s blockbuster trade, arrive in New Orleans and pass their physicals.

Billups was at the facility and received routine treatment.


Photo: Varon Panganiban
While the Clippers had only 10 players with guaranteed contracts on the court, Blake Griffin insisted that practice went well.

“[Practice] was good. One of our assistant coaches, coach [Marc] Iavaroni said he thought this might have been one of our best practices. And I’m not saying that as a slight to those guys [Gordon, Kaman, and Aminu] at all. I think everybody did a good job of coming in and staying focused the whole time.”

Griffin also applauded how the team has responded in the face of so many changes.

“Our guys came in and worked hard,” he said. “You know, Sunday night when this first all came out. Monday we came in and had a two-a-day and had a great two days of practice. Obviously, that says a lot about our team and how focused these guys are, something that big didn’t really distract us.”

Despite the new aura of excitement around the team, there was a sense of hurry up and wait in Playa Vista.

Paul arrived at the Clippers’ training facility around 11 a.m. to a throng of media outside. He met with team officials and watched practice. The four-time All-Star will be introduced by the team at a 5 p.m. press conference

‘NEW FACES’

As Griffin walked off the practice floor, some of the near 30 media members in attendance rushed towards him; cameras, microphones and tape-recorders in hand.

The star forward joked that there were a lot of “new faces” in the gym.

Since news of the Paul trade broke late Wednesday, the Clippers have been one of the lead stories in outlets across the globe. In all likelihood, more new faces will pop up as the season grows nearer.



DAY 6 TRAINING CAMP UPDATE
Seth Burton, Clippers.com | 12/14/11


WAITING FOR BILLUPS

Clippers newly acquired point guard Chauncey Billups has arrived in Los Angeles Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said following the team’s practice this morning in Playa Vista. The 14-year veteran who was claimed off of waivers on Dec. 12 was getting his physical as the Clippers finished up the sixth day of preseason training.

“I talked to him yesterday and he is excited about this opportunity,” Del Negro said. “He is looking forward to getting going. I am going to get together with him tonight or tomorrow for dinner and really talk to him.”

Del Negro and the Clippers are excited to add a player with a Hall of Fame resume and championship experience who can change a game with his shooting and depth play as the floor general.

“I don’t worry about him fitting in here,” Del Negro said. “You are talking about a veteran guy who knows how to play. I don’t worry about him, we will just have to get him accustomed to things as quick as possible. I don’t see that being a big issue with his experience.”


Photo: Anwar Torres
Billups’, 35, experience includes stints with the Knicks and Nuggets last season, as well as five other teams in his illustrious career. The five-time NBA All-Star and NBA Finals MVP will be joining his third team in less than a year, however, a situation that even Del Negro admits is less than ideal.

“It is tough for him,” Del Negro said. “Luckily, he has that type of experience and that type of character and leadership to deal with it. But is has been a difficult ride for him a little bit recently, but that is part of the business. A lot of guys have to go through it.”

The addition of Billups to a strong and talented backcourt that already boasts point guards Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe ensures L.A. will have depth at the position, but could signal a minutes crunch with three capable players all fighting to run the show.

While not prepared to name a starter at the position, Del Negro was adamant that Williams, who started all 22 games he appeared in with Los Angeles, will remain a key contributor and focal point of the club.

“Mo is a pro,” Del Negro said. “Mo is going to play. He is too good of a player not to play. All that stuff [about starting] will get worked out. Mo has been fantastic with his leadership. He has played well. He came to camp in great condition and Mo is going to get lots of playing time no matter the situation. Is about winning basketball games and Mo will be a big part of that for us for sure.”

JORDAN GETS INTO IT

Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, who made his first appearance at training camp on Dec. 13 after re-signing with the club as a restricted free agent on Dec. 12, went through his second practice session of the season, and came through with flying colors according to his coach.

Jordan reported to camp in top shape and has already supplied the Clippers with much needed bursts of his energy and enthusiasm.

“DJ was good,” Del Negro said. “His weight is good, his conditioning is good. He is just still a little rusty on some things, which is normal. But he brings great energy and he was very good on the weak side defensively for us today. I’m pleased where he is right now.”

The other center on the Clippers roster, Chris Kaman, is also happy to have his fellow big man back in camp.

“DJ is a great shot blocker, a great rim protector,” Kaman said. “You can see that he does a great job, and it is reflected in the deal he just signed. Teams value a guy like that and he deserves it. We have great chemistry together with Blake [Griffin]. We now have to see where everybody fits in. We’ve just had six days of practice, DJ just got here and now we will see how everyone can fill in the blanks.”


Photo: Anwar Torres
QUICK CAMP

Del Negro and the Clippers are still getting used to the idea of this season’s condensed training camp. However, with so many players returning from last year’s squad, the club does have an advantage when it comes to working everyone back into shape.

“We had a good practice this morning,” Del Negro said. “They have been a little hectic, but that is just part of the deal, I think the guys have come in good condition.”

Del Negro’s biggest challenge now is to get the players to absorb all of the offensive and defensive sets.

“I think the last couple of practices guys are starting to think too much instead of just reacting just because we are putting in certain things,” Del Negro said. “That rust and type of things like that will just be drilled until it becomes more natural. Basketball is an instinct game. I don’t want guys thinking too much, I want them playing, having fun and playing the right way. We’re getting there. There is no magic button you can push just to get there. You have to do the work every day and the guys are putting in the work, so hopefully it will pay off for us.”



DAY 5 TRAINING CAMP UPDATE
Clippers.com | 12/13/11


2011 Media Day Coverage



DAY 4 TRAINING CAMP UPDATE
Seth Burton, Clippers.com | 12/12/11

Photo: Anwar Torres

After the Clippers finished a tough morning session of practice around 1:00 p.m., on Monday, Dec. 12, most of the players retreated home to rest for the evening practice of head coach Vinny Del Negro’s second two-a-day of training camp.

But the Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey did not rest, taking the time to acquire five-time NBA All-Star point guard Chauncey Billups off of waivers and then re-signing restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan, matching the offer sheet presented to him by the Golden State Warriors on Dec. 11.

The Clippers had three days to match the Warriors’ offer sheet to the Texas native, but Olshey noted that after L.A. acquired Billups off waivers, they matched Jordan and notified his agent and Golden State in less than five minutes.

“We did what you are supposed to do,” Olshey said. “We are trying to build a winning organization; we are trying to build a winning culture. The way you do that is you first take of your own business.”

The Clippers quickly did that by securing the services of Jordan for the long-run, as the 6-foot-11 third-year pro is expected to be back in camp with the team soon and continue his success from 2010-11, that saw him enjoy a breakout season in which he averaged 7.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.78 blocks while appearing in a career-high 80 games.

“A big thing is taking care of our players that we’ve developed,” Olshey said. “We took Deandre, he was a second round pick (35th overall in the 2008 Draft). He was our guy. It wasn’t always easy with DJ as far as development and with playing time. There were frustrations, but he dug in last year and worked as hard as I’ve ever seen him work. He is ready to reap the rewards of it – and he should.”

Jordan’s hard work paid off as he shot a team-high 68.3 percent last season and finished third in the NBA with 158 dunks.

Now, Jordan and the high-flying Blake Griffin will have a new, legendary point guard in Billups throwing them alley-oops and lob passes after the former Knick and NBA Finals MVP was claimed off of waivers Monday afternoon. Billups, 35, was waived by the Knicks on Dec. 10.

“Chauncey Billups is a Hall of Fame talent,” Olshey said about the Clippers latest addition. “He is a great guy and he has a comfort level with some of our players.” Billups, has deservedly earned a reputation as one of the toughest, most respected and most clutch players in recent NBA history. A 14-year veteran, Billups is known for consistently taking, and nailing some of the biggest shots in the NBA Playoffs. It is his ability to score, distribute the basketball and play solid defense that landed him in five NBA All-Star Games and propelled him to the 2004-05 NBA Championship while with the Detroit Pistons and also has the Clippers excited.

“He’s Mr. Big Shot,” Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh said. “He has that name for a reason.”

Billups averaged 21.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 5.2 assists in the 2004 NBA Finals, as he led the Pistons to a title by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers.

“We think when he gets here he is going to embrace our culture and the type of people we have around here,” Olshey said. “He is going to be a major addition in the next step of our development.”

In 72 games with Denver and New York last season, Billups averaged 16.8 points and 5.4 assists. However, it is the intangibles and winning attitude that a player of Billups’ stature brings that was the real reason why Olshey wanted to add the Colorado native to his roster.

“This is not a precursor of another move, this is not laying the groundwork for another opportunity,” Olshey said. “In and of itself, Chauncey Billups is a great player and a player we wanted. There was competition for his services and we were lucky enough to win the claim.”

Despite the rampant trade rumors linking the Clippers to the New Orleans Hornets throughout the weekend and into Monday, Olshey is pleased with the way the team is shaping up just four days into training camp.

“We are moving forward with this group of players,” Olshey said. “Our theory has been that every move we make has to improve our culture and make us a better and more competitive basketball team. We felt that the deal we would have had to accept this morning would have hampered that strategy and instead, these moves we made today are positive moves. We just got better by keeping Deandre and adding Chauncey.”



DAY 4 TRAINING CAMP NOTEBOOK
Ryan Menezes, Clippers.com | 12/12/11


PLAYA VISTA — As rain clouds descended upon Los Angeles on Monday morning, so too did the swirling rumors of NBA transactions gone awry.

Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey was quick to clarify, saying “It wasn't rumors.” The Clippers had, in fact, talked to the New Orleans Hornets about a trade through Sunday night and into the morning, when the decision was made to stop talks because the Hornets’ asking price was too high.

“The New Orleans Hornets brought us a proposal last night, and it was significant,” Olshey said. “After analyzing it, we feel that right now this is a better team on the floor and in the future than what would have been in the package they had asked for.”


Photo: Anwar Torres
“I can tell you the aggregate compensation we were going to convey to them was just too much,” Olshey said. “It was going to hamstring our franchise in the long-term, and it wasn't just a deal for this season. We've put ourselves in a position to have sustainable growth and success long-term, and right now what it would take to get a deal done on their end -- the cost was just too high.”

Olshey spent a sleepless night communicating with Clippers President Andy Roeser, Head Coach Vinny Del Negro, Director of Player Personnel Gary Sacks and Team Operations and Scouting Coordinator Jason Piombetti about the proposed trade.

In the end, with the deal off the table, Olshey met with the team before Monday morning’s practice and reaffirmed his commitment to the players who may have heard their name floated around in trade rumors.

“We met with the team and we told them that we were offered a package last night,” Olshey said. “I feel that this is the team we want to go to war with….Vinny and I spoke with the 14 players we have under contract right now and basically said, Look, This is what happened, we had a busy night. We were proposed a trade for a superstar player. We also got a 43 Million dollar offer sheet on one of their teammates. We had a lot to discuss and our answer is that you are our guys and we are going to war with you.

Despite trade rumors throughout the news media, Del Negro was happy with the way the Clippers conducted their morning practice.

“They are focused, and that's one of the things I'm pleased with,” Del Negro said of the team.

JORDAN’S OFFER EXPECTED TO BE MATCHED

In the midst of talks with the Hornets, Olshey received an offer sheet on Sunday, Dec. 11 from the Golden State Warriors confirming they had signed restricted free agent center DeAndre Jordan to an offer sheet that was reported by various news sources to be $43 million in total value.

Under league rules, the Clippers have three days to match the contract offer and hold on to a key player and building block for the future. Olshey indicated the Clippers would do just that.

“I would expect DeAndre to be here smiling, goofy and doing skits with Blake [Griffin] at some point during media day tomorrow,” Olshey said.

The Clippers, under Jordan’s current hold on the salary cap of $1.1 million, currently remain under the cap by about $3.5 million.

Olshey has been steadfast in his commitment to re-signing Jordan, and said Monday that his restricted free agency has gone as expected.

“We've been well-apprised of the process,” Olshey said. “It's not contentious at all, its business. [The Warriors] are trying to acquire a really good young player. They did everything in their power to do it and now the ball is in our court.”

PRACTICE NOTES

The Clippers continued two-a-day workouts Monday, adding 5-on-5 full court drills with referees present at practice. The team’s annual media day is Tuesday. Stay tuned on Clippers.com throughout the event.

Training Camp Talk with Ralph Lawler



DAY 3 TRAINING CAMP UPDATE
Ryan Menezes, Clippers.com | 12/11/11

Photo: Anwar Torres

Team Gets Back In Shape With First Two-A-Day Session

Playa Vista - With Sunday marking the beginning of a two-week countdown to the regular-season opener, the Clippers began two-a-days.

An abbreviated preseason and rushed regular season means the Clippers will have to work on the fly, and on Sunday coach Vinny Del Negro thought his team quickly bounced back after a “sloppy” practice.

“I thought we were a little better today,” Del Negro said after the Clippers’ third practice of training camp. “We got a little sloppy yesterday. … We’re getting a handle on things after being off for so long.”

The turnaround time between practices three and four will be even shorter. The Clippers have about a five-hour break before hitting the practice floor once again Sunday.

With the rush comes valid concerns about conditioning and endurance, something Del Negro isn’t too worried about at this early stage.

“We'll come back tonight and we'll shoot again and we'll do some more things. But I'll monitor (everyone),” Del Negro said. “Right now everybody's feeling pretty good.”

The Clippers themselves, dormant for two months longer than they had expected, showed no concerns about conditioning.

“The long layoff -- you can tell guys did their thing back home and put in the work,” guard Mo Williams said.

“This summer was difficult to try and get players together,” guard Eric Gordon added. “We got together a few times during the summer. It was a tough long break for everybody to get together. That's why we're looking forward now to having good long practices.”

Alleviating concerns is the fact that amidst a period of turbulence around the NBA, the Clippers return 10 players from last year’s roster and had Caron Butler in training camp before the very first practice. It was a different story a season ago.

“Last year with the new coaching staff, a lot of new players, nobody really knew what to expect,” forward Blake Griffin said. “This year, the majority of our guys knew exactly what to do and we're ready to go.”

Butler, the newest member of the team, noted that he was less worried about the Clippers march through the hastened season because of their youth.

“This is a great year for young teams to capitalize on the opportunities of playing three, four games in a week, back-to-back-to backs,” Butler said. “Youthful teams are going to be key in stretches.”

TRADE WINDS SWIRLING

Rumors once again continue to hover over the Clippers of potential acquisitions by trade and in free agency. Del Negro said that those concerns are deferred to vice president of basketball operations Neil Olshey.“We're always looking to improve our team, and if there are opportunities there we're going to sit down and we're going to listen,” Del Negro said. “I'm pleased with the guys we have here now, and we'll make our adjustments as we see fit. If there's opportunities we're going to take a look at them, but Neil's on top of that. I feel very confident with him and everything he's put together.”



First Full-Contact Scrimmage Highlights Day 2 at Clippers Training Camp
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/10/11


Caron Butler settling in as Clippers work on defense and rebounding in Saturday morning’s practice.

PLAYA VISTA–After two days of training camp, Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro has repeatedly said the team has a lot of work to be done. On the morning of Saturday, Dec. 10, that level of work was turned up a notch.


Photo: Anwar Torres
The Clippers spent time on defensive rotations and signals, rebounding, and during the final portion of practice they scrimmaged, 5-on-5, for the first time.

“It was a little sloppy, but it was good to get up and down,” Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “Because of the lack of time we have, incorporating that as soon as possible I think is a positive for our guys.”

Small forward Caron Butler, who was playing in a full-contact scrimmage for the first time since he ruptured his right patellar tendon in January, 2011 said it felt good to be back on the court, fully recovered.

It also sounds as though Butler’s already assimilating himself into the Clippers lineup.

“Chris [Kaman] and Blake [Griffin] are going to draw a lot of attention. Eric [Gordon] as well,” he said. “And myself and Mo [Williams] just have to space the floor and make things happen. We’re doing a good job of that. The first day was so good, and we want to continue to build off that.”

Del Negro concurred, saying, “[Butler] gives us another look, another scorer out there. It will open up the game more for Chris and Blake underneath, I think. And take some pressure off Mo and Eric.”

DEPTH CHART FLEXIBILITY

For much of the offseason, Del Negro and Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey have talked about the team’s flexibility within the constraints of the salary cap.

Some of that was lost, when the team committed to Butler. But the small forward’s arrival greatly improves the Clippers flexibility on the depth chart.

“It gives us more options, more firepower,” Del Negro said. “That’s an advantage in itself. As long as guys buy into their roles and understand what we’re doing execution-wise.”

Butler, who can play both small forward and shooting guard, is just one of the versatile players on the roster.

Ryan Gomes, who started 62 games at small forward in 2010-11, will come off to the bench, allowing the career 10.8 points per game scorer, to backup both forward positions. Historically, Gomes has rebounded better as a power forward. He also creates mismatches outside with shooting range.

“I think coming off the bench you have a little bit more of a spark,” Gomes said. “You can study the game a little bit longer and see what’s happening with the starting unit. Then when you get in with the starting unit or you get in with the second unit you know what kind of things you can exploit. I played a lot ‘4’ in Minnesota before I got here, so I’m accustomed to playing that position. And the way we run our offense we stretch the floor. You see Brian Cook shoots a lot of outside shots because of some of the plays we run and I think I can fit into that realm as well.”

Forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who led the ACC in rebounding and double-doubles his sophomore season at Wake Forest, can play multiple positions.


Photo: Anwar Torres
So can Gordon, Williams, and combo-guard Randy Foye, making the team equipped to deal with injuries in the backcourt. With Eric Bledsoe expected to miss the next several weeks as he recovers from surgery on a torn meniscus in his right knee, there are a variety of options when Del Negro goes to his bench.

He could go big, sliding Gordon to point guard, Butler to shooting guard and bringing in Gomes. He could go smaller and use combo-guard Randy Foye to fill multiple roles, including a Villanova-esqe three-guard lineup, which Del Negro used with success late in games last year.

KAMAN GETTING IN SHAPE

On Friday, Kaman said his “conditioning wasn’t where it should be,” but he sounded optimistic that it wouldn’t take long to catch up.

Del Negro explained a little bit more about the big man’s fitness level as well as where the rest of the group is from a conditioning stand point.

“He’s not in game shape yet,” Del Negro said. “He scrimmaged. He hasn’t missed anything in practice. He’ll lose a few pounds and get in better condition like a few guys. That’s pretty normal for this time of year, you know, some guys are farther ahead than others. They’re working before and after. They’ll get their work in and they’ll be ready.”

The Clippers will conduct their first two-a-day workout on Sunday.

More:

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The Butler is Back in Town
Ryan Menezes, Clippers.com | 12/9/11

Photo: Anwar Torres

At the end of his first practice as a Clipper, Caron Butler stopped Blake Griffin mid-stride and grabbed at Griffin's calves.

"Give me those hops!" Butler yelled with a smile.

Butler is just 30, but he’s already playing the part of the old-timer. He signed with the Clippers on Friday, Dec. 9 and immediately became the Clippers’ oldest player. Butler will start at small forward, but a large part of his responsibilities are going to be leading the youthful team.

“It's important for me -- going through the trials and everything I've been through in my career -- to add my experience and help these guys out,” Butler said.

“I'm going to be vocal. It's not about scoring, it's going to be more about just your presence as a big brother to a lot of the guys out there. They're going to help me too, with the youth in this squad. They're going to encourage me and move me in practice, and keep me with a pep in my step.”

Butler certainly seemed happy to be back on the court Friday, the first day of training camp league-wide. Nearly a year ago, a gruesome patellar tendon injury cut his season short as a member of the Dallas Mavericks.


Photo: Anwar Torres
Though he felt ready to play at the tail end of the Mavs’ Finals run, he never again suited up for Dallas. Back in a blue No. 5 Clippers practice jersey, the 6-foot-7, 9th-year pro made sure to note that he isn’t “recovering” – he is fully “recovered.”

“He's just got to get in game shape,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “As he practices, gets his feet under him, he will probably lose a few pounds and feel even more bouncy. No issues today. He said he feels great and is ready to go.”

Clippers Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey brought in Butler after courting him in free agency as early as league rules allowed. He’s hoping Butler can revert to the All-Star player he was with the Washington Wizards in 2007 and 2008.

“We had decided that if we were going to invest the resources at the [small forward position], it was going to have to be a big jump in terms of production and expectations, and that is what we did,” Olshey said.

Adding the experience of Butler to the starting lineup means the Clippers can shuffle around experience to the young bench. Olshey noted that small forward Ryan Gomes, who started 62 games last season, would be counted on to lead the younger reserves.

Butler fits the mold Olshey was looking for at small forward, a position where the Clippers have lacked production in recent years.

“He's going to bring a lot of scoring offensively and a lot of toughness defensively,” Blake Griffin said.

Butler called Griffin a “special piece” when going through his reasons for signing with the Clippers. He also pointed to the fact that he is returning to Los Angeles, a city he remembers well from his one season with the Lakers. Above all was the chance to lead the Clippers, a group of upstarts he believes is ready to contend.

“I wouldn't have come here if we didn't have a realistic shot of playing winning basketball and competing night in and night out,” Butler said.




Back to Work - Camp is Open
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/9/11


PLAYA VISTA–Blake Griffin bent his knees, spun the ball in the palm of his hand, and sunk the first of several free throws following the Clippers first day of training camp on Friday.

Photo: Anwar Torres

Griffin, who was one of 16 players who took part in the workout, was officially back to work for the first time since the NBA work stoppage ended. Back to being his usual self—working on free throws and midrange jumpers well after the final whistle.

However, the 2011 Rookie of the Year was not alone. Veteran center Chris Kaman was there, shooting contested jumpers from the baseline and elbow. Newcomer Caron Butler, wearing jersey No. 5, traded 3-pointers from the corner with veteran sharpshooter Brian Cook.

“It went really well today,” Griffin said. “I was really excited with how well we did things. You know, last year was so different because there was a new coaching staff and a lot of new players, so nobody really knew what to expect. But this year a majority of our guys knew exactly what we were doing and were ready to go.” There seemed to be a sense of relief among everyone at the Clippers facility that they were finally back to playing and talking about basketball.

“It’s just good to be out there. The guys were excited,” Head Coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We had good energy in practice. It’s the first step of many, but it’s nice to get back out there.”

For many teams around the league, returning to the court meant a great deal of upheaval, new faces, or a sense of the unknown. The Clippers have been there before. However, this year it’s a much different feel.

According to Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey, that was immediately evident.

“You know, nobody’s introducing themselves today,” he said. “The transition’s seamless. They walked into the gym today and it was like they were never gone.”

One newcomer that needed little introduction was Butler, who was inked to a three-year contract early Friday. Olshey said he envisioned the veteran small forward as fitting in immediately, particularly from an experience standpoint.

“Our guys can really play. Now they need to learn how to play and win,” Olshey said. “I think the roster continuity, the stability in the coaching staff, and then adding a veteran like Caron [Butler] that can echo the sentiments of a guy like Mo Williams is exactly what we need.”

According to Kaman, there was one problem with the nearly three-hour practice.

“I actually didn’t know we couldn’t do contact,” Kaman said. “I just found that after practice. I’m thinking, ‘What happened to the 5-on-5,’ you know. And with me, being a little bit older, it’s kind of tough to go through all of those drills with the younger guys. I just wanted to play. That’s what I like doing, so that was a little disappointing.”

The NBA mandated that teams could not run full-contact practices on Friday, but are permitted to do so beginning Saturday.

INJURY NEWS

Second-year guard Eric Bledsoe is out for approximately three weeks as he recovers from offseason surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.

Rookie guard Travis Leslie also missed practice. He is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.

“I hurt it on October 7,” Bledsoe said. “I had surgery two days after I did it.”

Depending on Bledsoe’s recovery, it’s likely that Gordon and combo guard Randy Foye will spend some time at the point. It may also open up an opportunity for 2010 second-round pick Willie Warren.

“We have a lot of faith in Willie Warren in an emergency capacity,” Olshey said. “He went down and dismantled the D-League in his time down there. He came back and booked more workout time in this gym than any other player on this roster from the end of the season to the beginning of the work stoppage.”

Del Negro lamented the fact that Bledsoe would miss the preseason and likely the early part of the regular-season schedule.

“You know, training camps and exhibition games are a good time for those guys really to work on their game,” Del Negro said. “But you can’t control the injuries. We’ll get them [Bledsoe and Leslie] back soon and we’re going to need them, especially Eric.

“He’s getting better and he’s probably ahead of schedule now, which is good.”

Olshey echoed Bledsoe’s recovery, calling the Alabama native “country tough.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

After practice the team gathered at mid-court and sang happy birthday to Bledsoe, who turned 22 on Friday.

He said he planned to “Go home and chill and maybe hang out with the fellas.”


Time is Now -
Training Camp Opens Today
Eric Patten, Clippers.com | 12/9/11


The afternoon of December 9 could be the start of something big.

A run to the playoffs?

Perhaps, even more.

The Clippers will conduct their first practice of the new season Friday and the team is bustling with an aura of confidence that has been relatively muted over the last few years.

“It sounds like something every team says before the season starts, but this comes from my soul,” point guard Mo Williams said. “I’m being honest. There’s no way we’re not going [to the playoffs]. Obviously, our goal is to stay healthy, but at the same time we’ve got the talent, we’ve got the coaching staff, we’ve got all the qualities a playoff team needs.”

On Thursday, about 24 hours after Williams made his playoff guarantee, it was widely reported by numerous news sources that the Clippers had potentially added another piece to their already promising mix in free agent forward Caron Butler.

After what is expected to be approximately a 3-hour workout on Friday the team will run practice again on Saturday and then hold its first two-a-day session on Sunday.

“Our roster is intact for the most part. It is only going to get upgraded,” Vice President of Basketball Operations Neil Olshey said. “The coaching staff is back and that can accelerate how much more effective we are going to be. I don’t want to speak for [Coach] Vinny [Del Negro], but I think practice is going to be more efficient because you don’t have the learning curve we had last year.”

While the Clippers have added Butler and second round picks Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, the rest of the youthful roster is returning. Cornerstones Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon are back. As are veterans like Williams, Ryan Gomes, and Randy Foye, all of whom arrived last season. Second-year men Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe have a year of NBA experience to draw from. And center Chris Kaman, the longest tenured Clipper, is back as well.

All of this makes for what looks to be one of the deepest and most exciting rosters in the league.

The well-known foundation is Gordon and Griffin, who, along with Williams, was deeply involved in organizing team workouts during the lockout.

“A lot of guys have been in L.A. playing pick-up [games],” Griffin said. “It has been productive, but at the same time we are glad to be back.”

Still, the roster is young, which opens up teaching opportunities, particularly early in camp.

“The development process of our young players will be a high priority as always,” Del Negro said. “I like where we are at, but we know we have work to do.”

The work begins Friday and while Williams may have been the most vocal about the Clippers’ ambitions, others are following suit.

“We haven’t made the playoffs yet, but we were a good team last year,” said Foye, who’s beginning his second season in L.A. “We played well in some stretches, but there were other stretches where we didn’t play as well, so I think that is our goal.”

And when Gordon was asked if he heard Williams’ stance on the playoffs, the budding star responded accordingly.

“Yeah, I did. I am right along with them, I guarantee it, too.

Be sure to follow all of activity on training camp on Twitter! Follow @LAClippers and search #ClippersCamp for all of the latest updates.

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