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MIKE DOWNEY

Clippers Move Forward or Backward?

June 28, 1989|MIKE DOWNEY

The Clippers used the No. 2 pick in the draft to take a player who might not start.

Cornering the market on Dannys, our heroes united Danny Ferry with Danny Manning on a ballclub that needed a shooting guard a heck of a lot more than it needed another guy on the front line.

"Take Glen Rice," Clipper guard Gary Grant begged General Manager Elgin Baylor before the draft.

"Not just because he's my home boy from Michigan," Grant explained later, a few minutes after Ferry's name was called in Tuesday's National Basketball Assn. draft. "It's just that we lose a lot of games by three or four points, and Glen Rice definitely can put the ball in the hole.

"I guess they wanted to play it safe, because they still don't know for sure if Danny Manning is going to be in good health. I got nothing against Danny Ferry. He can play. Let's just see what happens."

Ostensibly, the Clippers already have a starting front line of forwards Charles Smith and Manning and center Benoit Benjamin, with Ken Norman also on the premises. At guard, the Clippers have Grant and Pray for Rain.

Giving Baylor and associates the benefit of the doubt, all we can say is:

1. Maybe they won't even have Manning.

2. Maybe they'll trade Benjamin.

3. Maybe they'll trade Ferry.

4. Maybe Ferry is as good as some people say he is, and will play 30 or more minutes a game even if he doesn't start.

5. Maybe Glen Rice would have been another Reggie Williams. All offense, no defense.

As Grant pointed out, however: "We need offense."

His teammates took the news in long strides.

"I'm satisfied," Smith said. "Danny Ferry can shoot and pass and play forward and back us up at center. No way he can hurt us."

Manning called Ferry a smart player who definitely will help. Beyond that, last year's No. 1 choice was what you might call non-committal.

Asked if he thinks the Clippers preferred the best athlete available to a specific need such as a shooting guard, Manning replied: "I don't know."

Asked if he expects to be ready at the start of training camp, Manning said: "I don't know."

Asked with a smile if he thought the Clippers had a thing for guys named Danny, Manning said: "I don't know."

Oh, well. In the immortal words of Emily Litella: Never mind.

Don Casey, meantime, was off in a corner of the Sports Arena, alias the Clip joint, when somebody asked him if he happened to know yet if he is the official head coach of the Clippers.

"Well, I'm not the unofficial coach," Casey said.

Casey's input into the selection of Ferry might or might not have been considerable--but, at a podium in front of an audience that had half-cheered, half-jeered the pick, Casey put it like so: "Elgin picked Danny, and we'll coach him and we'll coach him well."

For his part, Baylor wavered between Ferry and Arizona's Sean Elliott, and went with the earl of Duke because there were no doubts about his health. Manning's condition made this a priority.

He took a pass on taking a guard, so Michigan's Rice ended up going to the Miami Heat, where he figures to become sizzling Rice.

Sacramento, picking first, threw everybody a curve by picking Pervis Ellison, who a few weeks ago seemed unlikely to make the first five. Somehow Tuesday's draft turned out to be deep enough that a player the quality of Oklahoma's Stacey King lasted until the sixth pick.

Guards, meantime, were in great demand, giving hope to every runt on every playground in America. If guys the size of Pooh Richardson, Mookie Blaylock, Tim Hardaway and Dana Barros--none taller than 6-1--can all go in the first 16 picks of an NBA draft, there is hope for America's shrimps yet.

When did the Clippers finally find out that Sacramento was going to select Ellison?

"This morning," Casey said.

He paused.

"Well, this morning was when we found out they weren't going to take Ferry."

Which was all they wanted to know. The Kings could have Ellison or King or Rice, in other words, because the Clippers were only interested in Ferry and Elliott.

"We looked at Elliott and Ferry and thought they were the two best players," Baylor acknowledged. "We just thought with Elliott's possible knee problems, Ferry was the safer bet. Only time will tell."

No basketball team is likely to do itself harm by picking a player of Ferry's skills and smarts. We cannot wait, however, to check out San Antonio's new combination of David Robinson, Terry Cummings and Elliott, with the memory that doctors once told Sidney Moncrief his knee would never permit him to play in the NBA.

If Sean Elliott can play, he can play.

As for whether Danny Ferry will be a bench player or pro basketball's next superstar, well, to quote Danny Manning, we don't know.

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