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Clippers' Eric Bledsoe, other rookies going through growing pains

Some come from winning backgrounds and are not just struggling with adjusting to the NBA, but also with the team's losing record.

November 20, 2010|By Lisa Dillman | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Surely, there must have been a time when Eric Bledsoe was on a struggling team.

Uh, no.

"I've never been on team that's struggled," he said.

Never?

How about if we decide to start combing the pre-school reports or the tales of dodge ball on the playground?

"Never been on a team that's struggled," Bledsoe said, shaking his head.

Welcome to the present.

The Clippers, heading into Saturday night's game against the New York Knicks, have won one of their first 13 games this season. Bledsoe is used to the flip side of that, as is Blake Griffin.

Along with trying to string together a few wins — heck, any win at this point would stop the collective blood pressure from going up in the Clippers organization — there are smaller challenges for Coach Vinny Del Negro.

There is the delicate balance of handling the four rookies — Bledsoe, Griffin, Al-Farouq Aminu and Willie Warren — encouraging them, but not sugar-coating their mistakes.

"That's a fine line," Del Negro said. "You want to keep their confidence up, but the way we're built right now with the guys being out and everything else, you've got to handle the mistakes.

"… Like I said, they're good guys. They want to do the right thing. They get frustrated at times."

It was never going to be easy for one rookie, let alone two, and, at times, three in the starting lineup. They had two Saturday — Griffin and Bledsoe.

"I give those guys a lot of credit," Del Negro said. "They are working. They're trying. They're preparing. It's just that you can't speed the process. It just takes time.

"[With] some guys, it happens quicker. They're getting valuable experience right now, and like I said, hopefully we can get our key guys back and get a rotation finally down and use the guys we have.

"You are having two, three rookies starting and that's difficult at this level."

A blowout loss at Indiana on Thursday, was a game in which the "floodgates opened." They never could get back on track and lost their eighth consecutive game, and even Griffin and Eric Gordon put up airballs.

Aminu, who is leading all rookies in the league in three-point shooting, said he has been digesting the feedback, the negative along with the positive.

"I've never been a person to get mad," Aminu said. "Even if you're yelling. I just try to listen to good information. I don't try to listen to the yelling."

But most of the feedback has been coming from his teammates.

"They're like coaches, especially since they're injured now, so not even playing," Aminu said. "They're just watching the game. They've been doing a real good job, like coaches off the court for the coaches."

Bledsoe, averaging 31.2 minutes and 9.8 points, said he planned a different tactic against the Knicks.

"I just haven't been shooting it," he said. "I've been trying to get everyone involved, more facilitating instead of trying to knock a couple of shots down. I think I'm going to shoot it better today."

The speedy point guard was funny when he spoke about the pace of the NBA game. Bledsoe passed along his recent conversation with Clippers assistant Robert Pack.

"Coach Pack was telling me he still wants me to play fast," said Bledsoe, who has been struggling with turnovers. "That's what I'm trying to do, play fast at the same time but be under control."

A difficult balancing act, you might say.

"It's not easy. But when you've been running fast your whole life you probably get it," Bledsoe said, smiling.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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