The Vinny Del Negro era began today, with Baron Davis watching from the sidelines. As a precaution stemming from his lack of conditioning, the drills today were conducted without Baron. Instead, Baron did individual conditioning before and after practice, but was limited to observer status during the practice proper.
Brian Cook, Craig Smith and Randy Foye were also held out of portions of the practice as VDN seems to be taking a go slow approach at the beginning of camp. Coach doesn't seem concerned, insisting that if there was a game tomorrow, all the players who were held back today would play, including Baron. They're taking it 'day to day' with Baron, and no one will say when he might have his first full participation.
So this puts yesterday's comments about Baron's conditioning in a slightly different light. Assuming they knew that Baron would be held out today, the team wasn't going to be able to soft sell the situation - it was going to get talked about eventually. So in that case it was wise to get out in front of the issue. The first game of the season is four weeks from tomorrow, and there's more than enough time for Baron to get into game shape. He's also 31 years old with a history of some fairly significant injuries. Even if he was in perfect shape, he's the kind of player who would likely sit out a preseason practice from time to time. Still, it doesn't send a very positive message to start a new regime, a new era with a supposedly new attitude, with the team's highest paid player spectating.
As for the rest of practice, Coach seemed pleased. It's the first day so they're just getting started, going over terminology and philosophy. He highlighted positive energy during the practice and felt like it was a good session overall.
Asked about the presence of two veteran bigs in camp as unsigned free agents, Del Negro admitted that he was probably not going to be comfortable going into the season with only two centers on the roster. That's good news for either Jarron Collins or Jake Voskuhl - but probably bad news for Willie Warren or Marqus Blakely. Neil Olshey, like his predecessor Mike Dunleavy, would prefer to keep a roster spot open going into the season, meaning an opening day rostrer of 14. With 12 fully guaranteed contracts and either Collins or Voskuhl, there's only room for one of the remaining rookies.
We spoke to Blake Griffin some as well. He was understandably excited to have completed his first official practice since being injured almost a year ago. Asked how excited he was to play in a pre-season game in one week, he said "Not nearly as excited as I am to play in a regular season game." That day is four weeks from tomorrow.
The Clippers have another two hour practice this evening at 5 PM. The rest of training camp has two-a-days on Thursday and Saturday, and single practices tomorrow and Friday. I guess we'll find out soon enough how many of those eight practices include Baron Davis.