Kentucky guard Eric Bledsoe (24) and guard Darius Miller, rear, react during the second half of an NCAA second-round college basketball game against Wake Forest in New Orleans, Saturday, March 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Two first-round draft picks with potential to
crack the starting lineup have the Los Angeles Clippers' front
office feeling pretty good about the future. And free agency is
still a couple days away.
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu of Wake Forest and guard Eric Bledsoe of
Kentucky each expressed excitement Monday about joining a team that
has missed the playoffs 15 times in the last 17 years and won just
29 games last season.
"I look at that as a challenge, come in and help turn the
program around," Bledsoe said. "I wanted to come here because
they got great players."
Aminu worked out for the Clippers before the draft and liked the
people he met and the team's practice arena.
"I started seeing how good of an opportunity it could be," he
The Clippers took Aminu with the eighth pick in the first round
of last week's NBA draft. The 6-foot-9, 215-pound sophomore
averaged 15.8 points and 10.7 rebounds last season.
They later traded a future first-round pick to Oklahoma City in
exchange for Bledsoe, a 6-1 guard who averaged 11.3 points and 2.9
assists in his freshman season at Kentucky, where No. 1 overall
draft pick John Wall was the star.
The Clippers took guard Willie Warren of Oklahoma, who is Blake
Griffin's former teammate, with the 54th pick in the second round.
The team considers Aminu and Bledsoe to be good fits with the
core group of All-Star center Chris Kaman, last year's No. 1 draft
pick Griffin, who didn't play because of a knee injury, former
All-Star Baron Davis and Eric Gordon.
Aminu and Griffin could form the team's future frontcourt, with
Aminu slotted in at small forward, a position he played in his
freshman season at Wake Forest when he shot 52 percent from the
field. He's expected to shore up the rebounding, a major weakness
in recent years. Griffin will play power forward, the same position
he played in college.
"We're a more competitive team than we were a week ago," team
president Andy Roeser said. "We have someone at every position."
Bledsoe is ready to have Davis as a mentor.
"I like his toughness," Bledsoe said. "He goes every night
and plays. Even though he's getting old, he just goes out and
performs. I'm looking forward to going against him, but I'm more
looking forward to learning from him."
Next up comes free agency beginning Thursday, with the Clippers
among the teams that could be pursuing LeBron James. The Clippers
are projected to be $16.8 million under the salary cap, leaving
them with just enough cap room for one maximum contract.
"We're well positioned to do well in free agency," Roeser
said. "Our approach is we have a great team to surround yourself
What they don't have right now is a coach. That position has
been vacant since Kim Hughes, who filled the interim job, was fired
Roeser said it's not imperative to have a coach hired before
free agency begins.