Los Angeles Clippers
The money is (finally) flowing, but it won't pay dividends this year
By L. Jon Wertheim
Team Page | Conference ranking: 13 | Overall ranking: 25
For a man known for keeping a vice grip on his wallet, owner Donald Sterling spent money like Mike Tyson last summer. In addition to lavishing a six-year, $82 million contract on forward Elton Brand, Sterling matched Utah's offer sheet and shelled out $42 million over six years for 6'6" slasher Corey Maggette. While Sterling, who had never before signed a player to more than a $15 million deal, must have been jarred by the experience, re-signing Maggette at that price may turn out to be a bargain.
A versatile swingman who leaps as though he has Flubber-soled shoes, Maggette can also defend well, shoot with range, take his man off the dribble and handle the ball. And although he's only 23, he will provide leadership as well. Maggette was supposed to anchor the L.A. bench last year but was promoted to the starting lineup at the beginning of the season. He flourished, scoring 16.8 points per game -- second on the team, behind Brand -- and continuing his four-year streak of raising his average every season.
After signing for big bucks, Maggette splurged by taking his extended family on a Hawaiian vacation. When the Clippers opened camp in Palm Springs, Calif., he was still aglow about his new contract. "It shows they reward hard work," Maggette says. He's also "extremely happy" that the team hired Mike Dunleavy as coach. "He's the kind of guy who's going to teach us and make us show pride," says Maggette, who left Duke to turn pro in 1999 and was replaced in the Blue Devils' lineup by Dunleavy's son Mike Jr., now with the Warriors. "I know he expects big things out of me."
Who knows? Maybe if Maggette delivers, Sterling will finally realize that there's value in money well spent.
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Clippers
"I don't want to hear about a 'new era' because Donald Sterling gave big free-agent contracts to Elton Brand and Corey Maggette. They could have spent close to $20 million more and still stayed under the luxury tax, but Sterling would rather put that money in an apartment building than in the Clippers. If the owner doesn't care about the team's success, then why should the players? ... Maggette needs to learn to swing the ball to the open man; he can't just go up with his shot every time. They re-signed him instead of Lamar Odom, but while Maggette is the harder worker, Odom has more talent. You'll see it come out now that Odom is with Pat Riley in Miami.... Mike Dunleavy will do a good job of teaching the young guys. They have a couple of promising power forwards in Chris Wilcox and Melvin Ely, but it's going to be hard to develop them because they need Brand to play close to 40 minutes a game.... They're still athletic, and to take advantage of that, they'll try to push the tempo. But Dunleavy can't get around the fact that his point guards will be overmatched most nights. Marko Jaric has trouble advancing the ball upcourt because he reacts to pressure by turning his back. When opponents lay off him, he'll have better nights. At his height [6'8"] he sees the floor well, and he's able to take and make the big shots.... Michael Olowokandi allowed them to play man-to-man in the post, but with centers like Predrag Drobnjak, rookie Chris Kaman [the Number 6 pick from Central Michigan] and Ely, they're going to have to double-team in the post. Plus their guards are going to need help stopping penetration into the paint.... It's going to be hard for Dunleavy to win more than 30 games."
Issue date: October 27, 2003