Friday, November 15, 2002

CLIPPERS WATCH: The Chron is reporting early warning signs of the coming Clippers implosion:

We kind of knew that sometime this season, maybe on a long, winter road trip, perhaps late in the season when bodies are sore and the season is old, the Clippers would run headlong into individual interests.

With seven players in the last season of their contracts, that seemed certain. But in the first week? They couldn't make it through the first week?

There has been speculation that the many injuries are in part the result of players not willing to chance playing at less than 100 percent because injury-marred play could hurt bargaining position later.

Not surprisingly, Michael Olowokandi was the first to blow a fuse, demanding that the team run more plays for him. General manager Elgin Baylor was eventually called in to mediate. Coach Alvin Gentry was conspicuous in an animated conversation with Olowokandi's agent Bill Duffy. Gentry denied there was any "major" blowup, but something clearly happened.

"The contract thing is not an issue," Gentry said, protesting too much. "These guys are athletes, and they are bred to compete. When they walk onto the court, they are going to compete. With the contracts, nothing can happen until the end of the season, anyway."

Assistant coach Mo McHone said the team's lack of chemistry is an on-court problem, not an off-court problem.

"You can blame it on the contracts if you want to, but I really think it has more to do with us not playing together," he said. "I don't care what you do in practice, you cannot completely simulate game action. We have a new point guard (Andre Miller) and new starters, and the first time they really played together was in the first game. It just can't work that way."

The LA Times has a quote from Gentry on his team's impending free agency:

"Obviously, it's in the back of their minds," Gentry said. "We can't do anything right now as far as contracts until the season is over. So we've set our goals on the court. It's a distraction, but I think our guys have handled it well. I don't see any selfish play on the court so far.

"Actually, I'm a little sensitive to their situations. I understand how important the stats are to them. I might even play a guy a few more minutes than I might have."

Is there some curse associated with being on the cover of ESPN Mag too? Or maybe ESPN Mag just got on the Clippers bandwagon a season too late. I dunno. All I know is, the Clippers are not fun to watch thus far this season.

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