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The Past Is History
CHRIS BALLARD
March 06, 2006
Forget every nasty crack you've ever heard about the Clippers. Led by All-Star forward Elton Brand, the team once known as the worst franchise in sports is erasing decades of futility
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March 06, 2006

The Past Is History

Forget every nasty crack you've ever heard about the Clippers. Led by All-Star forward Elton Brand, the team once known as the worst franchise in sports is erasing decades of futility

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Brand is warming up for the game against Golden State, flipping in 15-footers. This is a new element of his game, along with a slimmer frame-at Dunleavy's request, he lost 18 pounds last summer and is noticeably quicker. On this night he struggles, shooting 5 of 18 from the field, but he still pulls down 15 rebounds, employing all the tricks that have allowed him to excel against bigger players. He uses his legs to create space, tips the ball to himself, dives for loose balls. He leads a late rally, but the Clippers fall 88-81. Regardless, Brand is, as always, professional and approachable in the locker room afterward. Kaman, the team's blond goofball center, asks how Brand plans to travel to Houston, where Brand will play in his second All-Star Game.

Kaman: "You flying private?"

Brand: "No, commercial."

Kaman (stops tying his shoes, looks up, dumbfounded): "You're kidding. You're not really flying commercial?"

Brand (shrugs): "Yeah, what can I say?"

Kaman shakes his head. A Clipper finally becomes a star, but he won't act like one? But this gets at the essence of Elton Brand. He doesn't act like he's better than anyone else, despite the fact that he is undoubtedly better than most.

If there is a lesson in this turnaround, just as SI suggested six years ago that there was meaning in the team's failure, perhaps it is this: These Clippers are winning because hard work and good character are rewarded, and redemption is possible, but not always easy. So yes, Clips fans, there is a next year. And, right over there-can you see it?-that glimmer might indeed be the light at the end of a long, long tunnel.

Then again, it might just be James Singleton with a flashlight, looking for his game shorts.

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

A Playoff Clip

OF THE FIVE active NBA players averaging better than 20 points and 10 rebounds a game for their careers, Elton Brand is the only one not to have made an appearance in the postseason. That should change this year.

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