PLAYA VISTA, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Clippers stressed all preseason -- all seven or eight days of it, at least -- that there would be a clear learning curve this year as they assimilated three new players into their starting lineup.
Wednesday's blowout road loss to the San Antonio Spurs showed just how steep the curve may be. After a smooth opening night win over Golden State, the Clippers lost 115-90 to Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and San Antonio three days later, falling completely off the Spurs' pace only minutes into the second half.
"Last night was, hopefully, a learning experience for us," point guard Chris Paul said Thursday after a two-hour afternoon practice at the team's training facility. "We haven't been together as much as we'd like to, but, like we said in preseason, we want to learn how to play with one another and win at the same time.
"Last night, that was not the case."
Paul, fellow point guard Chauncey Billups and small forward Caron Butler are the Clippers' three new starters, all acquired in a span of five days after the NBA lockout officially ended earlier this month.
All three have had sustained success in the league, but all three have already experienced early-season struggles -- Paul and Billups combined to shoot under 40 percent through two games and Butler did not score more than a dozen points in either contest.
"This is a new process for this team -- chemistry and all of those things," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said Thursday, as his team prepared for a Friday matchup with the team he previously coached, the Chicago Bulls. "We've just gotta keep working at it."
After Chicago, the Clippers will play Houston on Sunday, also at home, and then host two more home contests over the next week. They'll have a chance to get back on track.
"It's an unfortunate loss last night, but we watched film this morning and we'll continue to see what we did well and what we did wrong," Paul said. "In this league, the best thing is that you have another game in just a few hours."
Pedro Moura is a reporter for ESPNLosAngeles.com.