LAS VEGAS — With their offseason of controversy behind them, the Los Angeles Clippers got back to the business of basketball Tuesday, opening a four-day training camp in a city known for its temptations and distractions.
But coach Doc Rivers, after conducting a four-hour workout at UNLV's Mendenhall Center, said he isn't worried about how his players will deal with the Las Vegas nightlife this week.
"Listen, if you want to win, you'll go to sleep. If you want to lose, you'll go party," he said. "It's just that simple, and I told them that. I told them no curfews, you're on your own, you can do what you want. If they're ready, I'll know. If they can't practice, it means they're doing something they shouldn't do."
The Clippers will work out in Las Vegas through Friday, then return for a preseason game Oct. 18 against the Denver Nuggets at Mandalay Bay.
Rivers said he chose Las Vegas so his players could enjoy dinners together and see a few shows, a way to bond before the start of the season. No one seemed concerned about the potential for trouble in Sin City.
"We have a group of guys that are here for a purpose, so the distractions aren't really the distractions as far as we're concerned," forward Blake Griffin said. "We're not here to have a good time, be out late and all that."
New team owner Steve Ballmer joined the team for dinner Monday night, although he's not expected back before the Clippers break camp and return to L.A. But his mere presence was a reminder that it's a new day for a franchise that was buried in the controversy surrounding former owner Donald Sterling.
Not that anyone wants to relive the past.
"Once we get on the basketball court, it's all about basketball," Griffin said. "We kind of forget about the past."
The Clippers are in their second season under Rivers, and their core group — Griffin, Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan — returns after failing to reach the Western Conference finals for a third consecutive season.
The expectations to finally get there, and perhaps even advance to their first NBA Finals, are likely to follow the Clippers all season.
"We don't expect to lose," Paul said. "It's one of those things that, until you do it, you're going to keep striving for. We just want to keep working hard and try to enjoy the process."
Their primary focus will be working two new players, center Spencer Hawes and guard Jordan Farmar, into the second-unit rotation. Otherwise, the Clippers are hoping to refine what they already know in Rivers' system.
"I want our defense to be a little better," Rivers said. "Offensively, I want us to catch up to where we ended the season last year so we can move forward. But at the end of the day, I just want everybody to be on the same page, and wherever we're at, we're at."
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