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David
07-19-2002, 10:04 PM
Clippers' Sterling makes another big mistake

By Frank Hughes
Special to ESPN.com

This is a true story:

Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling once hired his wife to run the team as his general manager. Upon returning from a
trip, one of the team's coaches ran across Mrs. Sterling, GM, in the hallways at work.

She asked: "Where have you been?"

Quoth the coach: "Out scouting."

Replied the erstwhile GM: "Oh, my son was out scouting this weekend, too. What troop are
you with?"

I ask you: Does it really surprise anybody that Sterling somehow bungled a draft-day deal that
would have netted him Andre Miller from Cleveland for Lamar Odom and a draft pick?

After all, the point-guard position is the only spot where the Clippers need help, and Miller is
a future All-Star. Odom has had more problems with health and drugs than Keith Richards.
Also, the Clippers have so much young talent that the last thing they need is another draft
pick.

So, with a decision to make in the span of a few minutes, Sterling booted it about as well as
Scott Norwood. Unfortunately, Sterling can't be fired, or David Stern and 28 other owners
would have done it long ago.

The biggest tragedy about Sterling's cluelessness is that the Clippers actually have put together a collection of talent that I think
is one of the most exciting teams in the league to watch. But, knowing the way Sterling works by his past moves, my guess is he
is going to milk some sellouts for a few years, make some coin, never really give an all-out effort to keep this group together
and go back to being the laughingstock of the league -- while in his own mind outsmarting the rest of the moronic owners
obsessed with that ridiculous thing called winning.

In case you don't know the story, here is the quick low-down: Cleveland calls Sterling on draft night and offers Miller for
Odom and the No. 8 pick. Sterling says yes, the Cavaliers think they have a deal, and then for some inexplicable reason
Sterling bails out at the last minute, leaving the Cadavaliers hanging their heads in wonder about why they ever placed a call in
the first place. It's like asking the prom queen out on a date and then being surprised she doesn't show.

Worse, the Clippers go on to draft Maryland's Chris Wilcox and Fresno State's Melvin Ely with the eighth and 12th picks,
because they have a dearth of front-court players. Oh wait, no, my mistake, they have Elton Brand and Michael Olowokandi,
which leaves exactly six minutes a game for Wilcox and Ely. It would be like some team having Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and
Ken Griffey Jr. and then drafting an outfielder.

You know who I feel sorry for? Elgin Baylor, the Clippers GM who actually does know what a coach means when he says he
is out scouting.

Listen to the spin Elgin had to put on the ball when he introduced the two youngsters:

"I want to make one thing perfectly clear," Elgin said. "There were questions about a spur-of-the-moment deal, but when it
came time for us to draft, these are the players that we wanted to get. That's who we had on our board. We're happy to have
them."

Translation: "I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Donald Sterling is a buffoon and I have to cover his rear."

The only person with worse evaluation skills than Sterling is Ed Rush, the head of officiating. Did you see the latest? The league
fired Dee Kantner because supposedly she is ranked as the worst official in the league. Now, I know Kantner and Violet
Palmer are both women and it is easy to get them confused, but one is black and one is white. It's not that difficult, guys. Violet
is times-infinity the worst official in the league and should have been the one who was fired -- though I would venture to say
there are several fans in Sacramento who would argue differently.

(And while we're on tangents, let me ask this question because I may be misunderstanding my NBA lingo: Does, "keeping it
real," as Allen Iverson's mother likes to say, include living at a palatial mansion, being arrested and then throwing an all-night
house party to celebrate the fact you are heading to the clink for 11 hours? Because that happens all the time in my
neighborhood, where we also like to "keep it real.")

I also feel sorry for Clippers coach Alvin Gentry, who must feel like the guy who was
named as the new CEO of Enron.

"There's this misconception that we have all these big guys," Gentry said at the press
conference introducing Wilcox and Ely. Silly me. Once again, the stupid media is
misconstruing the situation. You're right, Alvin. Brand, 6-foot-8. Wilcox, 6-10. Ely,
6-10. Olowokandi, 7-foot. Odom, 6-10. Darius Miles, 6-9. Obinna Ekezie, 6-9. Sean
Rooks, 6-10. No, they don't have "all these big guys." Only eight, or, two-thirds of the
roster.

"It gives us an opportunity to run guys in and out of the game," Gentry continued. "When you play Tim Duncan one night,
(Shaquille O'Neal) another and then Chris Webber on another, you need big people."

Forgive me for asking, but isn't that why Olowokandi and Brand are asking for max deals? Don't they want to be paid to play
Shaq and Timmy and C-Webb every night. What are they, pitchers?

"I don't mind having that problem," Gentry ventured on like a blind man through a razor factory. "I would rather have guys upset
about not playing than have guys content about just getting a paycheck."

Uh huh. Just ask Mike Dunleavy about that problem. Actually, some of the guys in Portland are both just content to get a
paycheck and upset about not playing. I guess that's worse.

Speaking of Dunleavy Sr., what was all this speculation in the Bay Area that the Warriors were going to draft Mike Dunleavy
Jr. to entice Sr. to coach the team? Since when did Dunleavy Sr. become Phil Jackson? The guy is out of work, for gosh
sakes. Just offer him a contract, pay him a few million and the guy will come coach your team. You don't need to draft his son.

That's the kind of thinking usually reserved for Clipperland, where they apparently went into the draft thinking, "Let's get guys
who will be upset about not playing and mess up our chemistry? After all, we can always get Marko Jaric to play the point."

Or, perhaps this version of The Donald actually has a grand plan in place and has already decided to let both Brand and
Olowokandi bolt L.A., so he needed exciting young players like Wilcox and Ely in place to step in for them when they are
gone, furthering Clippers fans' hopes of a young core eventually coming together.

Should we give Sterling that much credit?

Let's ask his wife.

Frank Hughes, who covers the NBA for the Tacoma (Wash.) News-Tribune, is a regular contributor to ESPN.com.