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CLIPPERS FYI

Clippers' Craig Smith gives high marks to Blake Griffin

Former No. 1 pick compares favorably with LeBron James and Karl Malone, according to the veteran forward.

October 02, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Unless you are thrilled by free-throw shooting, there have been precious few in-action glimpses of Blake Griffin, or any of the Clippers for that matter, in training camp.

Media access is limited to the last few minutes of each session.

Suspense about the progress of the Clippers will officially end Tuesday in Portland, the first of their eight preseason games. But forward Craig Smith, most helpfully, provided something of a shortcut, a guest primer on all things Griffin.

Smith was asked if Griffin was 98.9% back after having missed all of last season because of a stress fracture in his left kneecap.

"159.7531 percent," he said, smiling. "Blake's looking real good. He's determined. I'm happy for him. Happy he's back on the court. You know he's going to do some special things this year."

A few minutes later, he got much more specific about Griffin's considerable talents.

"I can say this. I never played against Karl Malone," Smith said. "But he has the strength of Karl Malone but can run and jump like LeBron James.

"He can definitely make LeBron plays, defensively. Out in the open, he can make something special happen. He's kind of like a specialist. He has the best of both worlds. The physical strength, the power and he can run like a deer.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he was running a 40-yard dash with a car in the way, if he wouldn't hurt the car versus hurting himself."

Smith, who had off-season knee surgery, came out near the end of practice because of a tight back, Coach Vinny Del Negro said.

In camp, there has been a noticeable difference with the new coaching staff, Smith said.

How so?

"As far as Mike [former coach Mike Dunleavy], it's not a million plays," Smith said. "Knowing we have young guys, he [Del Negro] brings it one step at a time versus 10 plays at a time.

"He is not a big film guy. But of course when something goes wrong, we'll absolutely watch film. But we won't watch it for two hours.

"[Before] it was just a lot of clips. Especially, sometimes, we'd have to rewind it. Go through certain specific thingsā€¦.The next day you'd know, if you messed up on a play, you'd know that play was coming in. You'd probably see that 30 times."

Injury update

Baron Davis had a big pack of ice on his left knee after practice Saturday. He did more in practice but still has not been cleared for contact and won't be in Sunday's open scrimmage at Camp Pendleton.

"It kind of just flared up," he said of the knee. "I was going so hard before training camp. Too hard. And didn't have a good gauge of what I was doing. You play a pickup game and you think you can go play, and shoot and work out and not give myself ample amount of rest."

Veteran Brian Cook, like Davis, is still limited. Rookie Eric Bledsoe was back practicing after missing a couple of sessions because of a sore knee. Another rookie guard, Willie Warren, will be out at least a few more days because of a sore groin.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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