Clippers forward Blake Griffin watches a loose ball with Denver Nuggets'… (David Becker / Associated…)
The hitch is not in Blake Griffin's giddy-up, but in his shooting motion.
Just as the Clippers' star forward is about to release the ball, he pauses, a hiccup he has tried to stop by working with the team's new shooting coach, Bob Thate.
During warmups before the Clippers' 106-104 exhibition loss against Denver on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Griffin's shooting release looked smoother than before.
But during the game, the holdup in his release reappeared when Griffin went to the free-throw line, where he shot 52% last season. He missed his first four attempts, each hitting the back of the rim.
After his first game-type situation with his tinkered shooting release, Griffin, who made his final two free-throw attempts, was upbeat.
"I was somewhat OK with it because I was missing long," said Griffin, who scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds in 22 minutes "I don't want to miss short. Missing short is bad for me, missing long is OK.
"But as far as the first-game speed and all that, I think it was OK. I think I'll be much better. I've just got to keep working. I haven't made it by any means."
Jamal Crawford's 19 points in 27 minutes off the bench showed exactly why the Clippers acquired him: scoring outbursts.
"He can score so fast and so easily, it's scary sometimes," Griffin said. "Sometimes he'll do that in practice and rattle off six buckets in the last half of practice out of nowhere."
Crawford said he's comfortable in that role but doesn't want to step on any toes either. In a way, he said, it's like being the new kid at school.
"You want to fit in," he said. "But when you have great teammates, like here, they tell you to be aggressive and it makes it easy."
The Clippers' next two preseason games are against the defending-champion Miami Heat: Thursday in Beijing and next Sunday in Shanghai.
But Griffin said facing the Heat won't be a measuring stick for the Clippers.
"It's more for working on ourselves, on our offensive sets and defensive rotation, than it is game planning and all that," Griffin said. "It's more for ourselves."
Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said he expects to play 40-year-old Grant Hill, who didn't play Saturday, in the last three or four exhibition games. He also said he expects to start Chris Paul (right thumb) in a couple of preseason games, but that he's not putting any kind of timetable on a return for Paul or Chauncey Billups (knee). . . . Griffin said he dislocated his right index finger during practice Friday and again during the game Saturday. He said it shouldn't be a factor in China. . . . Guard Courtney Fortson and forward Chris Johnson, two training camp signees, were waived, putting the Clippers roster at 18 players.