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13 LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS
Phil Taylor
October 30, 2000
They're callow and they're clueless, but say this for them: They all want to be Clippers
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October 30, 2000

13 Los Angeles Clippers

They're callow and they're clueless, but say this for them: They all want to be Clippers

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Projected Lineup

STARTERS

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

SF

Lamar Odom

26

16.6 ppg

7.8 rpg

4.2 apg

1.20 spg

1.25 bpg

PF

Brian Skinner

193

5.4 ppg

6.1 rpg

1.33 bpg

50.7 FG%

66.2 FT%

C

Michael Olowokandi

103

9.8 ppg

8.2 rpg

1.75 bpg

43.7 FG%

65.1 FT%

SG

Corey Maggette

136

8.4 ppg

3.9 rpg

0.8 apg

47.8 FG%

18.2 3FG%

PG

Jeff McInnis

159

7.2 ppg

3.6 apg

2.9 rpg

43.0 FG%

33.3 3FG%

BENCH

PVR*

1999-2000 KEY STATS

G

Quentin Richardson (R)

179

17.0 ppg

9.8 rpg

2.2 apg

1.06 spg

43.2 FG%

G-F

Tyrone Nesby

201

13.3 ppg

3.8 rpg

1.7 apg

1.03 spg

39.8 FG%

G

Keyon Dooling (R)

210

15.3 ppg

3.6 apg

2.7 rpg

1.42 spg

38.9 FG%

F

Darius Miles (r)

240

22.1 ppg

12.4 rpg

3.4 apg

2.4 spg

7.2 bpg

F

Derek Strong

258

2.7 ppg

2.2 rpg

0.2 apg

43.8 FG%

78.6 FT%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
(r) rookie (statistics for final high school year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Alvin Gentry is a man of good cheer and great optimism, but he is also the new Clippers coach, which means he'll be lucky if those qualities survive until the All-Star break. For now, however, Gentry can spot silver linings faster than a metal detector. He has the league's second youngest squad, players who don't even know where to go out for dinner after the game much less how to defend the pick-and-roll, yet he makes their inexperience seem like a virtue. "We may not know what the hell we're doing," he says, "but at least it makes us hard to scout."

Gentry's kids, including three rookies (forward Darius Miles and guards Keyon Dooling and Quentin Richardson) and two second-year players (forwards Corey Maggette and Lamar Odom), have talent, but he believes that they can't become winners until the team has established an atmosphere of professionalism. Since being hired in August, Gentry has banned cell phones from the locker room and team bus, decreed that shirts must be tucked in during practice and warned that he would not tolerate tardiness. "He told us that it's be on time or be left behind," says Odom. "That goes for players, coaches, trainers—everyone."

The Clippers, who have finished at the bottom of the Pacific in six of the last seven seasons, will be left behind by the rest of the division again, but their future is brighter than it has been in years. The 20-year-old Odom was the best rookie in the league for the first half of last season before the rigors of an NBA schedule and the Clippers' downbeat attitude took a toll on him. Forward Maurice Taylor and guard Derek Anderson, the team's two top veterans, couldn't wait to leave as free agents, and both did during the off-season ( Taylor to Houston, Anderson to San Antonio). "We have guys here now who want to be here," says Miles. "That means a lot to Lamar."

The departure of Taylor and Anderson leaves the versatile Odom as the undisputed focal point of the team. Although he'll start at small forward, he will play several positions during the course of a game, including point guard, where the Clippers are especially suspect. Jeff McInnis, 26, the MVP of the CBA last season, before his call-up, will start there by default, but regardless of where Odom is on the floor, the offense will run through him. It may be early in his career to cast Odom as a team leader, but he already engenders enough respect from teammates that he is likely to grow into the role. "I learned a lot last year: how to play in the half-court, how to take advantage of matchups, what you can and can't get away with," Odom says. "I've always felt that I'm a natural leader, and I guess that's going to be put to the test this year."

One of the few Clippers with both the talent and experience to lighten Odom's load is center Michael Olowokandi, the top pick in the '98 draft. Olowokandi has been both foul- and injury-prone in his first two seasons, but after rigorous off-season workouts with a personal trainer he arrived in camp leaner and quicker, giving Gentry reason to believe that his big man is on the verge of a breakthrough.

The Clippers give lip service to the notion of contending for the playoffs this season, but their focus is really trained on a point several years in the future, when Dooling is their savvy playmaker, Odom and Miles are giving opponents matchup nightmares at forward, Richardson is an experienced two guard and Olowokandi is one of the league's elite centers. However, given that owner Donald Sterling has been unwilling or unable to hold on to key players, there's no guarantee that this group will stay together long enough for that fantasy ever to come true.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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