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"Cripes," says Free. "Some of the guys thought I had a bigger head than Sidney Wicks, and he used to be real bad. Can you believe that? I had to let them know that all the talking had taken the place of the playing."
"Frankly," says Shue, "I don't know where we'd be without Lloyd." The answer was made clear last week. Free missed a game in Milwaukee with a bruised back, and the Clippers lost 104-93. They beat New Orleans with him, but he missed the next game in San Antonio and the Clippers were blown out 140-111.
That day Free was in the Philadelphia Common Pleas Court for a hearing in his lawsuit against his former agent, Joseph Jeffries-El. Free contends that Jeffries-El mismanaged funds he earned while playing in Philadelphia. Jeffries-El, according to Free's attorney, Richie Phillips, received Free's salary and was supposed to pay his bills. Jeffries-El, Phillips said, set up a corporation called All World Enterprises, of which Free was president. One of the corporation's main properties was The Free Throw, a sporting-goods store. When the store went out of business last October it was in debt for more than $100,000 and back rent was owed and there were defaulted mortgages on a home that had been purchased in the corporation's name. In testimony last week, Jeffries-El said that Free was to blame for his own financial problems, claiming that Lloyd "was living over his head."
The relationship between Free and Jeffries-El goes back to Brownsville when Lloyd was 14, and Jeffries-El came around to the playground introducing himself as a Muslim minister.
"We were young then," says Free. "I had never thought about pro ball, but obviously Joe-El did. One day one of my friends showed up in a brand-new Cougar. 'You stay with me and Joe-El and you can get a car, too,' he said. I fell for it. I sold myself for a car. When I started college Joe-El gave me a Grand Prix. Then I started to get money. I figured, hey, I don't have any, this man's giving it to me, so why not take it."
When he was drafted by Philadelphia. Free looked for an agent. He came from a strong family, and his parents wanted him to stay away from Jeffries-El. "But then he did one of those 'After all I've done for you' numbers," says Free, "so, you know, I felt obligated."
Free hopes to get his financial problems solved with the help of Phillips. "All of the money that's gone, I say 'later' for it," says Free. "The old rep I had for being a bad guy, I say 'later' for that, too. Right now I'm like I was in college. No one can stop me."
"There is only a certain amount of ability that you can have in the game of basketball," says Shue. "It's rare when you can find a player who can beat another player either by outrunning him, outquicking him or outjumping him and at the same time be able to handle the ball. Lloyd can do all those things. There is no one who can stop him. I guess they gave him the right nickname."