View Full Version : Everyone's Awaiting the Clippers' Moves

08-20-2002, 09:29 PM
Everyone's Awaiting the Clippers' Moves
J.A. Adande

August 20 2002

Not much noise coming out of Clipper country these days. It feels like we're on a bird-watching expedition, patiently sitting in hopes of spotting a rare spotty-beaked blue warbler, as we await that unheard-of noise, Donald Sterling's pen scribbling across a commitment to a big-money contract.

Any or all of the following could be signed to a contract extension this summer: Elton Brand, Michael Olowokandi, Lamar Odom and Andre Miller. So far, the total is zero.

Meanwhile, there is news of big contracts around the league--and Clipper players notice.

"I can't help but see guys like BD [Baron Davis] and Shawn Marion, talented players, signing for the max and things like that," Brand said.

If the New Orleans Hornets can sign Baron Davis for $84 million when he wasn't even sure he wanted to stay there, if the Phoenix Suns can sign Shawn Marion for $79 million, then the Clippers can "max out" Brand--or at least come close.

And when the Kings signed point guard Mike Bibby to a seven-year, $80.5-million contract last week, it had ramifications for the Clippers. Actually, it included one bit of good news for them. David Falk, who represents Bibby and Brand, didn't hold the Kings up for a "max" contract. Bibby will start at $8.5 million.

So Falk is acknowledging that the marketplace isn't quite like it was during the free-spending summer of 1996. And I'm hearing that Falk is even allowing the Clippers a little wiggle room in their negotiations with Brand. Now don't think he's turned into Mr. Softy. He still turned down a $70-million offer from the Kings and squeezed an extra $10.5 million out of them.

The bad news for the Clippers? Olowokandi was selected ahead of Bibby with the No. 1 overall pick in 1998 and his agent sees Bibby's contract as a starting point for his client's new deal.

"A baseline," is what Bill Duffy called it. He also said there had been no talks about Olowokandi's contract for several weeks.

Miller will expect the same kind of numbers as Bibby.

Miller averaged more points than Bibby (16.5 to 13.7) and more than twice as many assists (10.9 to 5.0 ) last season. Of course, Bibby jacked up his price during the playoffs. He was the definition of a money player, coming through with clutch shots against the Lakers and the Dallas Mavericks.

What the Clippers are paying Miller for, what made them willing to bet the talent of Darius Miles and risk the wrath of fans to obtain him, is the promise of the playoffs.

If the Clippers are that confident they'll make the playoffs, then they should start spending as if they can expect the extra revenue that comes from home playoff games.

Brand is the logical first step. Miller probably wants to wait until next year's "seller's" free-agent market, Odom is coming off an injury-filled and suspension-plagued season, and Olowokandi still represents a bet on potential, as he was when the Clippers made him the No. 1 draft pick four years ago. Olowokandi also might want to seek another season of better numbers and then a better market, when more teams will be under the salary cap.

Brand is the safest investment, with averages of 19.4 points and 10.6 rebounds in his first three seasons.

Brand led the Clippers in scoring, was fifth in the league in rebounds and tops in offensive rebounds last season. He ranked third in the NBA last season with 55 double-doubles. That's 12 behind league-leader Tim Duncan, four behind Kevin Garnett and 12 more than the fifth-place guy--Marion.

So what's the holdup? For one thing, Falk was on vacation for three weeks. After he returned he focused on Bibby's contract, while Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor was visiting Chick Hearn in the hospital, then mourning Hearn's death.

There's nothing that says the Clippers have to sign any of these guys this summer. They can put this off until next year, if they want to take their chances. But if they can lock up even one guy, it will stand as a signal to the rest of them that they want to keep this team together.

Right now, they're going against their track record that says they absolutely won't.

Actually, that history is a little deceiving. If you consider some of the free agents who departed over the years--Ron Harper, Loy Vaught, Rodney Rogers, Bo Outlaw, Maurice Taylor, Isaac Austin and even Derek Anderson--none went on to greater individual glory. Yes, Harper won five championships with the Lakers and Chicago Bulls, but he wasn't in a starring role.

With the exception of Anderson, the Clippers wouldn't be any better off with the ex-Clippers than the guys they have now.

Still, it's the reputation the Clippers have working against them, and it definitely creeps into Brand's mind.

"I try not to allow [it], but it's what happened in the past," Brand said.

"It doesn't seem like anybody's signed yet. We have to wait and see what happens. It's the waiting period."

When it comes to the Clippers and money, waiting isn't just the hardest part. It's all they ever seem to do.

When I mentioned all the contract work to Clipper Vice President Andy Roeser the day the team introduced Miller, Roeser confidently said, "We'll get it done."

We'll see about that.

J.A. Adande can be reached at: j.a.adande@latimes.com.
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Copyright 2002 Los Angeles Times

08-20-2002, 09:38 PM
The writers name is too close to J. Valade for me to believe him.i/expressions/face-icon-small-smile.gif