13 Los Angeles Clippers They're callow and they're clueless, but say this for them: They all want to be Clippers

October 30, 2000

Alvin Gentry is a man of good cheer and great optimism, but he is
also the new Clippers coach, which means he'll be lucky if those
qualities survive until the All-Star break. For now, however,
Gentry can spot silver linings faster than a metal detector. He
has the league's second youngest squad, players who don't even
know where to go out for dinner after the game much less how to
defend the pick-and-roll, yet he makes their inexperience seem
like a virtue. "We may not know what the hell we're doing," he
says, "but at least it makes us hard to scout."

Gentry's kids, including three rookies (forward Darius Miles and
guards Keyon Dooling and Quentin Richardson) and two second-year
players (forwards Corey Maggette and Lamar Odom), have talent,
but he believes that they can't become winners until the team has
established an atmosphere of professionalism. Since being hired
in August, Gentry has banned cell phones from the locker room and
team bus, decreed that shirts must be tucked in during practice
and warned that he would not tolerate tardiness. "He told us that
it's be on time or be left behind," says Odom. "That goes for
players, coaches, trainers--everyone."

The Clippers, who have finished at the bottom of the Pacific in
six of the last seven seasons, will be left behind by the rest of
the division again, but their future is brighter than it has been
in years. The 20-year-old Odom was the best rookie in the league
for the first half of last season before the rigors of an NBA
schedule and the Clippers' downbeat attitude took a toll on him.
Forward Maurice Taylor and guard Derek Anderson, the team's two
top veterans, couldn't wait to leave as free agents, and both did
during the off-season (Taylor to Houston, Anderson to San
Antonio). "We have guys here now who want to be here," says
Miles. "That means a lot to Lamar."

The departure of Taylor and Anderson leaves the versatile Odom as
the undisputed focal point of the team. Although he'll start at
small forward, he will play several positions during the course
of a game, including point guard, where the Clippers are
especially suspect. Jeff McInnis, 26, the MVP of the CBA last
season, before his call-up, will start there by default, but
regardless of where Odom is on the floor, the offense will run
through him. It may be early in his career to cast Odom as a team
leader, but he already engenders enough respect from teammates
that he is likely to grow into the role. "I learned a lot last
year: how to play in the half-court, how to take advantage of
matchups, what you can and can't get away with," Odom says. "I've
always felt that I'm a natural leader, and I guess that's going
to be put to the test this year."

One of the few Clippers with both the talent and experience to
lighten Odom's load is center Michael Olowokandi, the top pick in
the '98 draft. Olowokandi has been both foul- and injury-prone in
his first two seasons, but after rigorous off-season workouts
with a personal trainer he arrived in camp leaner and quicker,
giving Gentry reason to believe that his big man is on the verge
of a breakthrough.

The Clippers give lip service to the notion of contending for the
playoffs this season, but their focus is really trained on a
point several years in the future, when Dooling is their savvy
playmaker, Odom and Miles are giving opponents matchup nightmares
at forward, Richardson is an experienced two guard and Olowokandi
is one of the league's elite centers. However, given that owner
Donald Sterling has been unwilling or unable to hold on to key
players, there's no guarantee that this group will stay together
long enough for that fantasy ever to come true.


COLOR PHOTO: JOHN W. MCDONOUGH STEADY LAMAR On this team, second-year-man Odom is a savvy veteran, making him L.A.'s likeliest leader.

In Fact

Last season marked the fourth time in the 16 years since the
Clippers moved to Los Angeles that they've finished with the
league's worst record. In three of those four seasons L.A.'s
other team, the Lakers, won the title.

Projected Lineup


SF Lamar Odom 16.6 ppg 7.8 rpg 4.2 apg 1.20 spg 1.25 bpg

PF Brian Skinner 5.4 ppg 6.1 rpg 1.33 bpg 50.7 FG% 66.2 FT%

C Michael Olowokandi 9.8 ppg 8.2 rpg 1.75 bpg 43.7 FG% 65.1 FT%

SG Corey Maggette[1] 8.4 ppg 3.9 rpg 0.8 apg 47.8 FG% 18.2 3FG%

PG Jeff McInnis 7.2 ppg 3.6 apg 2.9 rpg 43.0 FG% 33.3 3FG%


G Quentin Richardson(R) 17.0 ppg 9.8 rpg 2.2 apg 1.06 spg 43.2 FG%
179 [1]

G-F Tyrone Nesby 13.3 ppg 3.8 rpg 1.7 apg 1.03 spg 39.8 FG%

G Keyon Dooling (R)[1]15.3 ppg 3.6 apg 2.7 rpg 1.42 spg 38.9 FG%

F Darius Miles (R)[1] 22.1 ppg 12.4 rpg 3.4 apg 2.4 spg 7.2 bpg

F Derek Strong[1] 2.7 ppg 2.2 rpg 0.2 apg 43.8 FG% 78.6 FT%

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

an opposing team's scout sizes up the Clippers

"Who's an established veteran on this club who can teach all these
young kids about the league? Eric Piatkowski? C'mon.... Michael
Olowokandi could be a solid NBA center, but when you watch him
play, you have to question how much heart he has. Also, how much
coaching has he had with all the changes the Clippers keep making
in their staff? Where's the veteran center behind him to push him
in practice and make him better?... A guy to keep an eye on is
Brian Skinner. He's strong as a bull, and he's worked on his
offense and developed good hands. The year after next he's going
to be one of the top power forwards on the free-agent market....
Corey Maggette is an athlete, but he doesn't handle the ball
well, so he can't break people down off the dribble. I don't know
where you play him.... Guys like Darius Miles and Quentin
Richardson are very talented, and Lamar Odom was a franchise
player coming out of school. You can definitely build a team
around him.... A good year for this team would be 27, 28 wins."