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Baron Davis' fitness level a matter of concern for Clippers

At the team's media day, Coach Vinny Del Negro says the veteran point guard is not in the shape he needs to be in right now. Del Negro also is monitoring players coming off injuries.

September 27, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Diet guru Jenny Craig's number is not on speed dial over at Clippers headquarters.

The Clippers, who will hold their first practice on Tuesday, aren't alarmed about the fitness level of Baron Davis, a onetime pitchman for Craig. You might call it measured concern.

That was the newsworthy point Monday, along with valid issues of two players recovering from knee surgery (Randy Foye and Craig Smith) and keeping Blake Griffin from pushing too hard, too fast and not letting shooting guard Eric Gordon burn out.

New Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro wasn't even five minutes into his first session with reporters at media day when he expressed concern about the shape of the veteran point guard, Davis.

How far off is Davis?

"Percentage-wise, I'd be guessing," Del Negro said. "He's put in a lot of work in the last month or so. He started a little bit later probably than he needed to. He's in pretty good shape right now, but he's not where he needs to be. He knows that.

"Obviously, you want everybody in perfect condition. You have to come in training camp in shape. And the job in training camp is to get into better shape."

None of his words were said in a harsh tone.

But it was interesting that the Clippers weren't sugarcoating the situation. In fact, Del Negro and front-office executives told Davis beforehand exactly what they were going to say to the media.

Del Negro said he would also be monitoring the other players coming off injuries.

"If there was a game tomorrow … all those guys would be able to play," Del Negro said. "But there isn't a game tomorrow, so I want to be smart about their health and their development."

Griffin is taking those words to heart. The No. 1 overall draft choice in 2009, he sat out all of the regular season because of a stress fracture in his left kneecap, and he sat out the first few days of training camp last year.

He said he has learned to pace himself, not an easy task.

"I feel like I'm really ready to go this year," Griffin said. "I know what training camp is like. I know what preseason games are like. Now it's just a matter of getting all that together and completing a full season."

Kaman takes charge

At the other end of the spectrum is the longest-tenured Clipper, center Chris Kaman, now starting his eighth season. He was married in the off-season and seems to be taking his senior status seriously. At Del Negro's suggestion, Kaman took about 10 of his teammates over to Catalina Island on his boat last week.

Kaman, 28, bluntly told Del Negro that he was "in a tough position" as the new Clippers coach.

"I think it's one of the greatest challenges of coaches that come and try to coach the Clippers," Kaman said.

"There's always talented players. But getting them to go well together is huge. I think he can. And I hope he does. …This is tough for anybody. Especially with a reputation, trying to break that reputation. People say a lot of stuff about the Clippers. We have to be positive about it."

Etc.

Davis, in an upbeat mood, said he was not far off in terms of his shape, saying it was more an issue of conditioning. But it is significant considering his oft-stated desire to return to a fast-paced running game.

He did laugh when asked about an Internet report last month that put his weight at a whopping 260 pounds. That would mean plenty of double-doubles, right?

"A lot of people kept asking me, 'Are you 260 pounds?' I'm like, 'No, where did you hear that from?'" Davis said.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

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