Shortly after the Clippers' 120-99 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers Monday night at the Sports Arena, Clipper owner Donald T. Sterling entered the locker room and met with interim Coach Don Chaney behind closed doors.
Twenty minutes passed and still the door to Chaney's separate coaching room was closed, Sterling chatting with Chaney and assistant coach Brad Greenberg. A ball boy tried to enter the room, but he was quickly ushered out.
As a result, rumors carried like mist from the nearby showers. Was Sterling telling Chaney that his interim status was very interim? Or was he giving Chaney the same vote of confidence that Jim Lynam received a week before he was fired? Or did Sterling tell Chaney that, despite the loss, he'll be the coach next season?
Those were the questions raised after the Clippers lost their 49th game in 74, this one a particularly dismal effort. Portland (36-37) took command early in the third quarter and opened as much as a 23-point lead in the fourth quarter.
When the door finally opened 40 minutes after the game, Sterling stayed inside, and Chaney met the media. Looking distraught, Chaney would not talk specifically about the meeting.
"(It was) nothing. Just something personal. This is not the time to ask me about next season . . . I apologize for that (the closed-door meeting). I got carried away in there. It (the meeting's subject matter) does not concern the media."
After briefly talking to reporters, Chaney went back into his office and continued to meet with Sterling.
Clipper General Manager Carl Scheer said that, for Chaney to drop the interim label from his job title, the Clippers must show significant improvement under his direction. That wasn't evident Monday night.
On Oscar night, the Clippers put on a convincing portrayal of a truly bad team after winning three of their last six games under Chaney. Derek Smith was the Clippers' leading scorer with 18 points, but he shot only 5 of 13 from the field. Bill Walton scored 16 points off the bench.
The Trail Blazers were led by Kiki Vandeweghe's 27 points, but the player who really hurt the Clippers was rookie guard Steve Colter, who had 26 points (9 of 11 from the field) and three steals.
Colter is starting in place of Darnell Valentine, who injured his ankle earlier in the month. Valentine is back playing in a limited role.
"This was an excellent game by Steve tonight, maybe his best of the season," Trail Blazer Coach Jack Ramsay said. "As a team, we were running the ball well and executing a lot better than Saturday night's game (a 126-123 win over the Clippers at Portland).
The Franklin Edwards case has been settled--sort of. NBA officials decided that the Clippers could sign Edwards, who became a free agent after playing for Philadelphia last season, to both a 10-day contract and an offer sheet for the remainder of the season, which is what they tried to do Friday before the league overruled it. "Our concern is what will happen if Philadelphia matches the Clippers' offer sheet," NBA general counsel Gary Bettman said. "Then, we have the same player signed to play with two teams." The 76ers said that they have right of first refusal to Edwards but offered to waive their right if the Clippers would give them two second-round draft picks. The Clippers rejected that offer and waited for the league to rule. The league compromised by saying that the Clippers' 10-day claim on Edwards can be terminated if the 76ers decide to match the Clippers' offer . . . "I don't know the whole reason behind it," Edwards said. "But I don't think it's right because Philadelphia showed no interest in me before the season. Now that I'm playing well, they suddenly get interested. This is something I hope the league can iron out and get a firm rule." . . .Edwards averaged 5.7 points a game during his first 10-day period with the Clippers and has received praise from interim Coach Don Chaney. "This just indicates I'm in their (the Clippers) plans for the rest of this year," Edwards said. "I'm not taking anything for granted for next season." . . .