What do you get for the team that needs everything? A player who
can do everything. That would be Brent Barry, the Clippers'
rookie guard. Barry, a talented musician, can sing the national
anthem for the Clips, as he did before his own high school
football games. He can also double as the L.A. Sports Arena
organist, since he used to relax before college practices by
playing a tune or two on the pipe organ at Oregon State's Gill
Coliseum. He can even entertain at team parties with
impressions, especially his Frank Sinatra routine.
Now does the Clippers' trade of forward Antonio McDyess--the No.
2 overall pick of the '95 draft--to the Denver Nuggets (along
with center Elmore Spencer) for Barry and forwards Rodney Rogers
and Brian Williams seem so dubious?
Well, yes. Instead of winding up with the promising McDyess or
guard Jerry Stackhouse, another potential star, the Clips got
two serviceable forwards and the unproven Barry, the 15th pick
of the draft, which is why they aren't likely to improve greatly
on last year's 17-65 record.
But coach Bill Fitch steadfastly defends the deal, arguing that
the Clippers needed quantity more than quality. "I don't think
this franchise, with all that it has been through, could go
through another season like last season, which we might have no
matter how good McDyess is going to be," he says. "It was a
October 22, 1995
It may be true that the Clippers need three good players more
than a single outstanding one. But why trade for two power
forwards in Rogers and Williams when that position is the one
spot they already have ably manned--by Loy Vaught, who led the
team in scoring and rebounding in '94-95? That's the kind of
thinking that should land the Clippers in the cellar for the
third straight season.
Because of the logjam at power forward, the 6'11" Williams will
spend a great deal of time at center. He's happy to be playing
anywhere other than next to Denver center Dikembe Mutombo.
"Dikembe doesn't like it when you go for the rebound he wants,"
Williams says. "I had more wrestling matches for rebounds with
him than with the opposition."
Lamond Murray is proof that the Clippers don't always botch the
draft. The seventh overall pick in '94, Murray had a promising
rookie season--he goes to the basket with authority, and his 14.1
scoring average was second on the team--but his shot selection
was questionable, which is why he had only a 40.2 shooting
percentage. And there was occasional friction between Fitch and
Murray, with Fitch trying to rein in the rookie's freewheeling
game. After one clash late in the year, Murray was sent home
from a trip and given a one-game suspension. If he can stay out
of the doghouse, Murray could put up big numbers in '95-96.
It's typical of the Clippers' luck that two years ago the rotund
Stanley Roberts was developing into a solid NBA center when he
ruptured his left Achilles tendon, ending his season. The year
before, he had the same injury, only to his right Achilles. The
290-pound Roberts has a history of weight problems; the Clippers
would have liked to monitor his rehabilitation and his waistline
during the summer, but they were kept from doing so by the
lockout. That's why Fitch is happy to have Williams, who can
start at center.
The Clippers aren't nearly as settled in the backcourt as they
are up front. Pooh Richardson returns, which will be a good
thing at times and not such a good thing at others. Richardson
can distribute the ball, but if opponents can force him to
shoot, they'll be in good shape: Last season Richardson shot
only 39.4% from the field. His partners in the backcourt are
Malik Sealy, a small forward playing out of position; Terry
Dehere, a first-round pick in 1993 who has been a
disappointment; Harold Ellis from Division II Morehouse College;
and Barry, the son of former ABA and NBA star Rick Barry. Not
exactly an All-Star lineup.
The Clippers are hoping Barry--nicknamed Bones by his Oregon
State teammates because of his 6'6", 185-pound frame--will show
everyone that he's as versatile on the court as he is off it.
They feel he can play both guard positions and perhaps a bit of
small forward. It's clear he has some of his father's flair and
feel for the game, particularly in his flashy passing.
If Barry is as good as the Clips believe, there may come a day
when critics of the Denver deal will have to eat their words,
but for now the Clippers look like a lottery team again. Maybe
next time they'll use their choice more wisely.
BY THE NUMBERS
1994-95 TEAM STATISTICS
PPG (Rank) FG% (Rank)
OFFENSE 96.7 (23) .444 (24)
DEFENSE 105.8 (23) .496 (27)
HEAD FOR THE PARKING LOT
The Clippers won only one game last season (out of 56) in which
they trailed going into the fourth quarter, which gives them the
worst such record of any NBA team over the last 15 seasons.
L.A.'s lone comeback win came on Dec. 27, when it trailed the
Bulls 78-75 after three quarters in Chicago but came back to win
95-92. One reason for the lack of late rallies was the fact that
the Clippers often found themselves trailing by 20 or more
points entering the fourth period. That happened in 18 games
last season, the second-highest such total by any NBA team over
the past 15 years (the '92-93 Mavericks had 21 such games).
Worst Fourth-Quarter-Comeback Records
Clippers 1994-95 1-55 .018
Nets 1989-90 1-51 .019
Mavericks 1982-83 1-30 .032
Hornets 1989-90 2-54 .036
Spurs 1988-89 2-50 .038
PLAYER TO WATCH
In Denver last year, Rodney Rogers began to blossom as a scorer,
averaging 12.2 points a game, and the process could continue
this season with the Clippers. At 6'7", 255 pounds, Rogers is
bulky enough to play power forward, but he has the shooting
touch of a small forward, and he's likely to get significant
playing time at both positions. Rogers is also enough of a
three-point threat--he made 33.8% last season--to be valuable to
the Clippers, who were not very effective (31.5%) from beyond
the arc in '94-95. Rogers could push Lamond Murray for a
starting job; at the very least he will be relied on for scoring
punch off the bench. He sees himself in a familiar situation in
L.A. "When I first came to Denver, it was a team in the same
position that the Clippers were in," he says. "They weren't
really in the playoffs that much. But we were able to turn it
around there, so hopefully we can change it around here, too."
STARTERS 1994-95 KEY STATISTICS
SF Lamond Murray 14.1 ppg 4.4 rpg 40.2 FG%
PF Loy Vaught 17.5 ppg 9.7 rpg 51.4 FG%
C Brian Williams 7.9 ppg 4.7 rpg 0.68 bpg
PG Pooh Richardson 10.9 ppg 7.9 apg 1.61 spg
SG Malik Sealy 13.0 ppg 3.6 rpg 1.8 apg
F Rodney Rogers 12.2 ppg 4.8 rpg 65.1 FT%
G Terry Dehere 10.4 ppg 2.8 apg 29.4 3FG%
G Brent Barry Rookie; 15th overall pick, from Oregon State