IRVINE, Calif. – Branden Dawson’s the only rookie on a team full of experienced veterans.
He knows he needs to soak up all the information he can, and on the final day of training camp Tuesday, the advice came from Chris Paul.
“I talked to the rook, Branden, a little bit about paying attention and watching the guys in front of him,” Paul said. “We’ve got a lot of veteran guys here, and we get straight to it every day.”
We caught up with Dawson to talk about the experience of his first ever training camp:
What’s it been like out there?
Dawson: “It’s been great just being out here with these guys, just learning from the best. This is something that I’ve always wanted. It kind of goes back to when I was a freshman in college, just coming in and learning a lot of different things, learning from different guys. The first couple days of practice, I’m having fun playing with different guys.”
What’s stood out to you?
Dawson: “Just the pace of the game. It’s fast, but sometimes you have to just slow yourself down a little bit. Like sometimes on TV, it doesn’t look like the game is fast, but it’s a lot faster than college. Just coming in and keeping the pace, knowing where you’re supposed to be on the floor and knowing defensive assignments.”
What are Doc Rivers and the coaching staff asking of you?
Dawson: “For right now, Doc and the guys told me just don’t try to create all the time. Let my teammates create for me. We’ve been working on different things, corner shots.
How tough is it to pick up everything so quickly?
Dawson: “It’s definitely hard. I was just talking to one of my assistant coaches from Michigan State, and there are some drills that we did at Michigan State, but there were some drills we didn’t do. It’ just a lot, coming in and just learning. I think it’s better for me, it’s going to all pay off…It’s just learning and being patient.
The Clippers were careful throughout camp with Lance Stephenson, who tweaked his groin a month ago.
Rivers said the Clippers held Stephenson out of the 1-on-1 periods Tuesday, but they let him go once again for the scrimmaging. Even with limited reps to show what he can do, Paul said he loves what he’s seen from Stephenson on the court, and Rivers believes the forward is getting healthier.
“I think he’s pretty much out of the woods,” Rivers said. “I think Austin (Rivers) got hurt in the middle of practice. I don’t think it was bad. He still did the 1-on-1, but it was his ankle.”
Austin Rivers said afterward he’ll be fine.
“I just lightly turned it,” he said. “We were competing today. I’m good to go.”
Other than that, the Clippers appeared to get out of training camp unscathed.
Doc Rivers continues to switch up player groupings to be prepared for any situation, and that’s particularly the case for the forwards.
On Tuesday, Wesley Johnson went back with the starters to get work at his normal position at small forward. Rivers hasn’t divulged whether Johnson or Paul Pierce will end up starting at small forward, and he said it could end up changing from night to night.
“We’re versatile enough to be able to do that,” Rivers said. “With matchups, Paul’s age, a lot of things. You can look at a lot of things.”
In a short amount of time, Johnson’s made an impact on his new starting point guard.
“Wes is an amazing player, great defender, can really shoot it well,” Paul said. “That athleticism is going to be something I think will help us a lot.”
Doc Rivers said one of the aspects he likes about this team is that each player seems to understand and be accepting of the fact he won’t play the same minutes or get the same shots that he’s used to. He said that’s the only way the Clippers will make it work this year.