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At Home or Away, the 0-2 Clippers Aren't Much of Match for Anyone

November 08, 1987|CHRIS BAKER | Times Staff Writer

The Clippers are already in midseason form after just two games.

After losing their season-opener by a record 46 points Friday night in Denver, the Clippers opened their home season with a 124-99 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers before 10,045 fans at the Sports Arena.

Although the Clippers showed signs of improvement with the return of forward Michael Cage and the emergence of rookie Reggie Williams, they still have a long way to go.

The Clippers shot just 38.8%, including a pathetic 23.8% in the third quarter.

Asked to rate the Clipper offense, Coach Gene Shue said: "On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd say zero. That's the current problem."

The Clippers, who lost their last 14 games last season, have lost 16 straight. NBA Commissioner David Stern was on hand as the Clippers opened their fourth season in Los Angeles. Stern, who presented the Lakers with their championship rings Friday night, probably should have presented the Clippers with a trophy for finishing with the league's worst record last season.

The Trail Blazers took command with a 20-2 spurt in the first quarter.

Kiki Vandeweghe, who had 32 points Friday night in the Trail Blazers' 118-104 season-opening win over Phoenix, scored 33 points as Portland beat the Clippers for the eighth straight time. Portland Center Steve Johnson added 24 points, including 14 in the first quarter.

Clyde Drexler dunked his way to 23 points and passed off for 10 assists. Guard Terry Porter added 16. Forward Caldwell Jones, the only Portland starter who didn't score in double figures, had 11 rebounds. Kevin Duckworth also came off the bench to grab 11 rebounds.

Williams, who started at small forward, scored a team-high 25 points for the Clippers. Guard Mike Woodson added 18 points and Larry Drew 14.

Cage who played in his first game after ending his holdout Friday, had 6 rebounds and 10 points in 23 minutes off the bench. Cage looks like he's in good shape, but he's a little rusty at the free-throw line where he missed 8 of 14 free-throw attempts.

Cage, who went through tedious negotiations before signing, wants to concentrate on playing again.

"I've got to put everything behind me. It started to affect my mental approach," Cage said.

"Tonight, I felt lost out there most of the time," Cage added. "I felt I was hurting the team to a degree on defense. And I felt totally uncomfortable at the free-throw line."

Cage, who missed all of training camp, met with Shue for an hour to learn some plays and then attended a practice at 5:15, as the team walked through plays for him to run.

"I don't have time to be nervous," Cage said before the game. "I'm not too thrilled about coming back the day of a game.

"I have a lot to learn. I spent an hour meeting with Gene Shue. I'm very behind. Gene showed me a few plays that he's going to run when I'm in the game.

"I was looking at the playbook and it's very complex. It was almost like looking at a law book."

Still, the presence of Cage will help to improve the Clipper rebounding. Cage finished as the sixth leading rebounder in the NBA last season.

"Finishing in the top five in rebounding is a strong goal of mine this year," Cage said.

Said Woodson of Cage: "If he rebounds like he did last season that will be 10 more boards. We got beat by 20 or more boards in the last three exhibition games and against Denver last night."

Cage also did a lot of weightlifting and running to keep in condition during the summer. "I'm at the same weight I was last year, 240," Cage said. "I hit the weights pretty hard this summer because rebounding breaks down your legs. "I'm going to work my butt off to get back into the starting lineup."

Clipper Notes Clipper center Benoit Benjamin, who suffered a sprained ankle Friday and didn't play Saturday, was spotted at a Denver disco after the Friday game. Benjamin said he hopes to return Tuesday night against Utah. Earl Cureton started in place of Benjamin Saturday night. . . . The Clippers cut rookie forward Tod Murphy to make room for Michael Cage. . . . Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor said the club hasn't made any progress in negotiations with free agent forward Scott Wedman, who played for the Boston Celtics last season. Clipper physician Tony Daly, who performed the surgery on guard Norm Nixon's injured right Achilles tendon, said he expects Nixon to attempt a comeback. "It (the Achilles tendon) looked like it exploded." Daly said. Nixon will be in a cast for six weeks and faces a three-month rehabilitation period.

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