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Clippers have 'efficient' training camp in Las Vegas

Clippers have 'efficient' training camp in Las Vegas
Blake Griffin, right, practicing with Clippers teammate Reggie Bullock on Thursday, called the last five days in Las Vegas "one of the best training camps" he had taken part in. (John Locher / Associated Press)

Five days in the desert taught the Clippers a few things about themselves.

C.J. Wilcox can dress, donning a Michael Jackson costume as part of a rookie ritual.

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Joe Ingles can take some ribbing, the Australian shrugging off questions about riding kangaroos and drinking Foster's beer.

Spencer Hawes can't dance, his moves apparently failing to impress Coach Doc Rivers.

"Other than watching Spencer Hawes dance, it was a great camp," Rivers joked Saturday after his team broke training camp at Nevada Las Vegas. "That was pretty pathetic."

The Clippers made time for their silly side in addition to the serious basketball stuff, hoping to show that a team that plays together stays together throughout the grind of an NBA season.

There were team dinners at the Wynn and other high-end resorts along the Strip. Players spent their final night Friday at Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson show at the Mandalay Bay.

"I've really been impressed with the way the whole team gets together and goes out kind of as a unit," Hawes said. "For me, especially, it was good to get to know guys as much off the court as playing with them on it."

That's not to say that the Clippers' focus ever wavered. Rivers noted that his players exhibited the self-control that spending nearly a week here required.

"They all were fresh in the mornings," Rivers said, "so that means they went to bed at night."

Star forward Blake Griffin called it "one of the best training camps" he had taken part in because of its efficiency. The Clippers return six of their top seven scorers, providing a familiarity that leads to productivity.

"We were just efficient, I think," Griffin said. "We really got a good grasp on the offense and the defense."

Reporters were allowed to watch only a sliver of team scrimmages, but several things immediately stood out.

Griffin has further refined his mid-range game, continually making step-back jumpers from 18 to 22 feet. Glen Davis and Matt Barnes are both moving more fluidly, each player having slimmed down appreciably over the summer.

Newcomers Hawes and Jordan Farmar make the Clippers more dynamic, Hawes with his size and three-point shooting and Farmar with his feistiness and ability to make plays with or without the ball.

It will all be on display when the Clippers play host to the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night at Staples Center in their exhibition opener. Rivers said the game was moved up a day at the request of the NHL so that the Kings could raise their championship banner Wednesday.

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Every Clippers player should be available after the team departed camp without any injuries. Griffin declared the back issue that prompted him to withdraw from Team USA this summer a non-issue, saying he was fully healthy after a summer of conditioning.

The Clippers left Las Vegas knowing they would be back soon, for an exhibition against the Denver Nuggets on Oct. 18 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. Rivers said the team would hold training camp again here next year, with its exhibition opener scheduled for the day after its final practice.

Until then, Hawes has plenty of time to perfect his dance moves.

"There will be more of that this year," he said. "I don't mind getting up there and dancing a little bit."

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