Mixed debut for Clippers rookies
Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu showed potential, but are a work in progress
The crown jewel of the Clippers' collection of five rookies is Blake Griffin, last year's No. 1 pick, who sat on the bench with a towel covering his face in the fourth quarter when this year's No. 1 pick John Wall (18 points, 10 assists, five steals) helped swell the Wizards' lead to more than 20 points.
Griffin said he is 100 percent recovered from the knee surgery that robbed him of ever playing a game in 2009-10, delaying his debut a full season. He is practicing with the team during summer league but will not play in any of the games.
It was a mixed bag of results from L.A.'s four other first-year hopefuls.
Eric Bledsoe finished with 17 points, six rebounds and four assists matched up against Wall, his former University of Kentucky teammate. Bledsoe was selected No. 18 by Oklahoma City before being acquired by the Clippers on draft night for a future first-round pick.
He got the best of Wall early on, driving right by him and finishing with a sweet reverse layup under the hoop, but he also beat Wall in a category he would rather not win -- turnovers. A 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard, Bledsoe had 10 turnovers to Wall's eight.
"[My night] had its ups and downs," Bledsoe said. "From a scoring standpoint, I helped my team a little bit. From a defensive standpoint, I think I helped it a little bit, as well. But as far as turnover-wise, I thought that was a big, big, big part of my game I need to work on."
One Western Conference scout likened Bledsoe to Thunder guard Russell Westbrook but said Bledsoe must work on his shot (6-for-15 from the field and 5-for-8 from the foul line) while cutting down his turnovers.
Bledsoe's rookie brethren have even more to work on.
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Drafted No. 8 out of Wake Forest, Al-Farouq Aminu (6-9, 215) showed flashes of the ultra-athletic small forward the Clippers believe he can become -- throwing down a ridiculous tomahawk dunk in the fourth quarter -- but also looked lost at other times, going 0-for-3 on 3-pointers and fumbling a Bledsoe pass.
"It was a good learning experience," said the 19-year-old Aminu after finishing with 11 points and seven rebounds. "We just have to keep growing every day and if we do that, we'll be alright."
L.A. first-year coach Vinny Del Negro, who sat courtside with owner Donald Sterling and general manager Neil Olshey during the game as assistant Dean Demopoulos called the plays, acknowledged that Monday's exhibition was just the start of a long growth period ahead of the team.
"With young players, [development] doesn't happen overnight -- it's a constant, daily process of trying to get better," Del Negro said. "The player-development part for these guys is key because we have so many young players."
The Clippers' other two rookies who are trying to make the team -- 6-4, 203-pound guard Willie Warren and 6-9, 345-pound center Sofoklis Schortsanitis -- also had mixed reviews.
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Warren finished with 10 points on 4-for-7 shooting and impressed by stripping Wall straight up on one possession for a steal. Schortsanitis, however, finished with zero points, four rebounds and three turnovers in 14 minutes of playing time.
A European scout familiar with Schortsanitis' career in Greece said that if does get signed by the Clippers, he will need a "baby sitter" to prevent him from overeating and to help him stay disciplined and in shape. Both Warren and the man nicknamed "Baby Shaq" are considered locks as training camp invitees and possible roster players next season.
Bledsoe welcomes the challenge of growing together.
"It's just like the team we had at Kentucky -- a whole bunch of freshmen," Bledsoe said with a smile. "Age don't mean nothing to me. If you can play, you can play. If you can't, you can't. I don't care about being a rookie. Once you step on the court, you still have to put the ball in the hoop."
Dave McMenamin covers the Lakers and Clippers for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter. http://twitter.com/mcten.