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Thursday, December 1, 2011
Blake Griffin first Clipper on court

By Pedro Moura
ESPNLosAngeles.com

PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The first Los Angeles Clippers player to show up and work out at the team's practice facility on Thursday, the first day allowed by the NBA under the new still-to-be-finalized collective bargaining agreement, was superstar forward Blake Griffin.

Griffin, a third-year player who set the league on fire in his first season in 2010-11, walked in Thursday morning wearing a red-and-gray sweater and matching shorts and sneakers about 50 minutes after the facility was officially opened to all Clipper players and any NBA'ers in the area at 10 a.m. PT.

Roughly two hours later, he left through a back entrance without speaking to the media after completing a solo workout on the court and in the gym.

Clippers general manager Neil Olshey, speaking during the workout, said he wasn't the slightest bit worried about Griffin's fitness level after five full months away from the team. In that sense, he compared his star player to Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who is notorious for the preparation he completes on his own prior to each season.

"It's the same question you'd probably ask the guy in El Segundo," Olshey said Thursday in response to a query about Griffin staying in shape. "I don't know which one spent more time in the gym this summer, but I bet it's pretty close. When you get a great player with a phenomenal work ethic, you don't worry about that.

"I'm sure we saw who the first guy in the gym was today."

Griffin averaged 22.5 points and 12.1 rebounds playing in all 82 games last season, his first in the NBA after a knee injury forced him to miss his true rookie year in 2009-10. He made the midseason All-Star team as a reverse, voted in by NBA coaches, and was the first unanimous winner of the league's Rookie of the Year honors in more than two decades.

Olshey and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro were not allowed to meet with Griffin while he was at the team's facility Thursday, but they reiterated plans to add players with strong work ethics akin to his.

"This is part of the process and the culture we're trying to build here," Olshey said. "We're trying to bring in that do work, that want to be here and build something -- not guys who you're dragging in and setting requirements behind."

Second-year forward Al-Farouq Aminu, who spent the majority of the lockout in Los Angeles, arrived shortly before 2 p.m. and took shots on his own on the court. Veteran forward Brian Cook also visited the facility but did not work out, instead undergoing physical therapy.

A number of the Clippers' primary players -- including guards Eric Gordon and Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan -- are out of town, remaining in the cities where they spent the majority of the lockout.

Training camps are set to open Dec. 9, assuming all parties ratify the agreed-upon CBA. The Clippers' first preseason game is scheduled for Dec. 19 against the Lakers at the Staples Center.

Regular-season games will begin Dec. 25.

Pedro Moura is a reporter for ESPNChicago.com.