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LOS ANGELES Clippers #14
Phil Taylor
February 08, 1999
If Kandi isn't dandy, the club will continue to be the league's longest-running comedy routine
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February 08, 1999

Los Angeles Clippers #14

If Kandi isn't dandy, the club will continue to be the league's longest-running comedy routine

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1997-98 Key Stats


Lamond Murray


15.4 ppg

6.1 rpg

1.49 spg

48.1 FG%


Lorenzen Wright


9.0 ppg

8.8 rpg

1.26 bpg

44.5 FG%


Michael Olowokandi(R)


22.2 ppg

11.2 rpg

2.88 bpg

60.9 FG%


Eric Piatkowski


11.3 ppg

3.5 rpg

45.2 FG%

40.93 FG%


Darrick Martin


10.3 ppg

4.0 apg

1.00 spg

37.7 FG%

Top Reserves
Bench Ranking (out of 29 teams): 18


Rodney Rogers


15.1 ppg

5.6 rpg

1.22 spg

45.6 FG%


Maurice Taylor


11.5 ppg

4.2 rpg

0.7 apg

47.6 FG%


James Robinson


7.7 ppg

1.9 apg

1.6 rpg

38.9 FG%

1997-98 Record: (17-65 (seventh in Pacific)
Coach: Chris Ford (first season with Clippers)

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (1997-98 statistics at University of the Pacific)

*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 68)

Anyone who coaches the Clippers automatically becomes more of a straight man than Bud Abbott. Chris Ford, who assumed the post when the NBA lockout ended, will soon discover that nearly every statement he makes can be used as an opening to mock his team. For instance, when Ford said during training camp that Los Angeles's number 2 team was "still searching for an identity," it was tempting to quip that the Clippers should look for it in the same place they've found it three of the last five years, at the bottom of the Pacific Division. "This is the hand I've been dealt' Ford said when his hiring was announced. Sure, and with these cards, L.A. probably will do what it usually does—fold.

Ford does have what he hopes will be an ace in the hole in 7-foot center Michael Olowokandi, the first pick of the 1998 draft, but the Clippers shouldn't expect him to provide much of a foundation right away. He missed die beginning of training camp because—in a typical example of Clips luck—he had signed a contract with an Italian team, Kinder Bologna, 48 hours before the lockout was settled. Kinder Bologna granted Olowokandi an early release because, team officials said, he didn't have the impact they'd hoped for. He averaged 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in six games in the Italian League. Olowokandi says Kinder Bologna didn't use him properly, making him feel almost like an afterthought on offense. "Usually when you're the top pick, they build a team around you," he says. "I'd rather you live and die by me. Don't ask me to be the savior and not give me the chance to be the savior."

Olowokandi, who arrived late to training camp and missed last weekend's exhibitions against the Lakers, will get every chance to save the only marginally talented Clippers. He is expected to start in the middle and be flanked by third-year power forward Lorenzen Wright and fourth-year small forward Lamond Murray, Los Angeles's leading scorer last season with a career-high 15.4-point average. The 6'11" Wright split his time between center and forward and played well in stretches during his first two seasons, but at press time Wright, who hadn't gotten the contract extension he wanted, was seeking a
trade. The Clippers' more immediate problems are in the backcourt, where they need more production than they got last season but will have to get it from the same players. Darrick Martin (4.0 assists a game) will start at die point, with Eric Piatkowski (11.3 points) at shooting guard.

Ford would be wise to keep his goals modest—to tighten Los Angeles's defense, which ranked 27th last season, and to jump from last year's 17 wins into the 20s. The Clippers won't be in the playoffs, but maybe they won't be in as many punch lines, either.

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