The Clippers had their first summer league practice Thursday night, their second this morning, and a media availability after practice today.
Here are some tidbits you might find interesting (to refresh yourself on the Clippers' summer league roster, you can go to Clippers.com or to earlier Clips Nation posts).
The coaching staff for practice, such as it is, consisted of head coach Vinny Del Negro, one of his assistants in Chicago last season, Dave Severns, and Dean Demopoulos, a former assistant to Nate McMillan in Portland whom ClipperBlog identified as a key candidate earlier in the week. Officially, Severns and Demopolous are just helping out for the time being. They are not on the staff at this point, though they are certainly being considered and one would expect that the fact that they are here would give them a leg up on the competition. Possession is nine tenths of the law, 95% of life is showing up, absence makes the heart grow fonder, tie goes to the runner - there's some cliche that describes this situation really damn well, even if I don't know what it is.
By the time I got in the gym, practice had wrapped and the players were stretching in their warm down. I did however get to watch some of them go through some shooting drills after that.
I focused on Eric Bledsoe and Wille Warren, who were working with Severns on catch-and-shoot three pointers. The basic drill was to shoot until they made five from a spot and then switch. More often than not, they would make five of seven or five of eight. Not bad, but of course there's a huge difference between making shots in shooting drills and making them against defenders in game situations.
I'm not crazy about Warren's mechanics. His release point is too low - he shoots the ball from somewhere near his chin. It looks correctable, but that type of tinkering can be tricky. Some guys respond well and become better shooters, while others have trouble adjusting the way they've always shot the ball. With his current stroke and his slight size for the two guard, he's going to have difficulty getting good looks unless he's all alone. A long defender, anywhere near him, is going to bother that shot if not block it altogether.
Bledsoe on the other hand has terrific mechanics. He's got long arms, a high release point and a pure stroke. I watched him drain ten straight from the right corner at one point, and I think he hit the rim on two of those. He's the real deal as a shooter, which is a great asset for the team. As I said, game shooting is another animal, but he shot well at Kentucky, and from what I saw today, he'll be able to shoot in the bigs.
I got a chance to talk to Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Coach VDN. Rather than go back through those interviews, I thought I'd just share some quick general impressions now, and then add some quotes later as appropriate. Clippers.com was there with the Flip video also, so keep an eye out for their content.
- VDN - He's a personable guy to be sure. He was very gracious with his time and provided good, if circumspect answers. I've mentioned before how refreshing Kim Hughes was with his sometimes brutal honesty. VDN plays it much closer to the chest (like 99.9% of NBA coaches). We talked about Sofo, about the other rookies, about the temporary coaching staff, about Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye, and his answers were more or less what you would expect. Sofo is big; coach is watching Blake Griffin, the draft picks and Sofo most closely in these practices since they're either on the team or likely to be; nonetheless he thinks there are players on the summer league roster who could make the team; he's happy to have Severns and Demopolous helping but he's still building his staff for next season; he is looking for coaches that can relate to the young players; he likes the versatility of Foye and Gomes to play multiple positions. That sort of think.
This is not meant as a criticism of the coach. He should be playing it close to the vest at this point. He was meeting Ramona Shelburne for the first time and had only briefly said hello to me on Wednesday. He's not going to be dropping any bombshells at this point, nor he should he.
- Bledose (can't bring myself to call him EB) - Bledsoe just seemed excited to be here. He was very animated, excited to be practicing, running up and down. He's really looking forward to playing in Las Vegas next week.
- AFA - Farouq is a real soft spoken kid (and bear in mind, both of these guys really are kids - 19 years old each). He just has a real humble demeanor. He too was happy to be playing to be getting contact on the court. He was very complimentary of VDN's coaching style - it may be an oversimplification to refer to VDN as a 'player's coach', but AFA specifically mentioned how he liked the fact that Del Negro spoke to him one on one every day. He too is looking forward to Las Vegas, at least partly because his brother Alade is going to be there with the Heat's Summer League team.
That's about it for now. I'll listen to the audio and see if there's anything else you guys need to know.