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Clippers are betting that Al-Farouq Aminu can play

Rookie has been working hard, maybe too hard, including late-night shooting sessions during summer league in Las Vegas. Fellow rookie Eric Bledsoe also shows improvement.

September 29, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Little wonder the kid was looking weary in Las Vegas during summer league. After all, leaving the hotel late at night and getting back after 1 a.m. can take its toll.

Only small forward Al-Farouq Aminu, the Clippers' first-round draft choice in June, was shooting a thousand or so jumpers with veteran Pistons guard Ben Gordon at the gym, not posting up around blackjack tables.

"I wasn't happy with his energy at times during summer league," said Neil Olshey, the Clippers' vice president of basketball operations. "Never even thought to ask [Aminu] why…. He never told anybody because he didn't want to brag about his work ethic.

"Then he's going to practice the next day and trying to play a game at night, I'm like, 'This is not the time to be up till 1 in the morning, shooting jumpers with Ben Gordon.' Of course you have no legs.'"

As if to illustrate Olshey's point, on Wednesday afternoon Aminu was off in the far corner, still working away, and the Clippers' practice had been over for half an hour. He had arrived at the practice facility five hours earlier.

The learning curve for Aminu and rookie point guard Eric Bledsoe has been considerable. Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said that Aminu played a bit at power forward Tuesday and Wednesday out of necessity, but added: "He'll pretty much stay strictly at [small forward] for now."

Bledsoe, from Kentucky, has been getting no shortage of advice on how to become a point guard in the NBA, mostly from Baron Davis, who still remains limited in his training camp activities.

"It's been kind of tough because I'm learning how to play point guard and I'm learning what everybody can do," said Bledsoe, who was taken at No. 18 by Oklahoma City in June and then traded to the Clippers for a future first-rounder.

"The veteran players are trying to show me the way. But they're also getting on me a bit. It's been kind of frustrating because I've been messing up at the same time. I've got to think it's a process. I'm just trying to get better. I'm hearing from a lot of different people."

Even before the first three sessions of camp — two practices Tuesday and one Wednesday — the Clippers thought Aminu and Bledsoe were greatly improved from their summer league showings. Blake Griffin said Bledsoe was doing a much better job of slowing it down and taking care of the ball.

"He was real wild in summer league," Griffin said. "He knows it."

Bledsoe agreed, saying: "I'm 10 times better because I'm being more patient than I was than when I first started."

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