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THE NBA : Clippers Are Following Familiar Pattern

November 18, 1990|MARK HEISLER

This must just be more bum Clipper luck. They get wiped out in four consecutive games and the next day run an ad announcing: "We're Making Our Move."

Truly, if it wasn't for bad luck, these guys wouldn't have any at all, but believe this: Breaks even out. There's no curse on the Clippers, even if a top club executive has been heard bemoaning one. To succeed, they need only hire competent men and trust them.

Let's say that owner Donald Sterling is warming to the concept slowly. Thus, Clipper seasons historically follow a pattern:

--Exhibition season: Franchise celebrates newly stocked talent level; players proclaim love for new coach.

--Early season: Losses are followed by recriminations.

--Midseason: Players mutter about no-longer-so-new coach.

--Next season: Coach, now a lame duck, is put out of his misery. Sterling tells everyone they're still friends, though. Process begins again, only with more talent from subsequent lottery picks.

Says an NBA assistant: "I don't like to see them saying that stuff about all the talent they've got. Even (General Manager) Elgin Baylor is saying it. Everybody's got talent."

Right on time, after last week's 31-point rout by the Trail Blazers in Portland, Charles Smith noted: "Some of the guys aren't playing hard right now." Ken Norman said: "Damn right."

Who runs this show?

They could have hired Mike Fratello, but he reportedly asked too many questions while being interviewed. The Clippers don't like vesting mid-level managerial personnel, such as coaches, with a lot of power, not to mention $700,000 per year.

They chose Mike Schuler, a gifted coach who perished in Portland because he didn't have enough soft soap to handle Clyde Drexler. Heaven knows how Schuler will fare among the Clipper Young and Restless, but if the organization has learned anything, it will back him to the max.

It has to back someone, sometime. Why not start now?

Laker update: It's probably a little early to fire Mike Dunleavy or start making trades.

How about a little therapeutic wailing and gnashing of teeth, instead?

As hard as it may be, everyone is going to have to stay cool. This team needs to settle on a lineup, learn its offense and, most of all, find a defense it can play.

The Lakers are one of three teams allowing opponents to shoot 50%, alongside expansion Charlotte and zany Denver. It's a neighborhood they need to put in their rear view mirror.

Maybe he misplaced the address: Fratello, now an NBA and Clipper announcer, sent 26 of 27 NBA coaches mailgrams wishing them well.

He omitted his Atlanta successor, Bob Weiss.

NBA Notes

Trouble in Utah: The Jazz's shooting accuracy is down from last season's 50% to the low 40s, and it is scoring in the low 90s. Counting the Tokyo trip, the team will have spent 19 of 25 days on the road. Coach Jerry Sloan thought he was in trouble a year ago and may be in more now. . . . Kiki Vandeweghe shed his Creaky Kiki persona and helped the New York Knicks get off to a fast start. Said the Seattle SuperSonics' Xavier McDaniel: "They used to go from one block to the other block, just like Gladys Knight and the Pips. Now Kiki gives them outside shooting to take the pressure off Pat (Ewing).

Phoenix Sun Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons, on failing to reach 200 points after his team's 107-point first half against--who else?--Denver: "I was afraid it might take 200 to win." . . . Big-time triple-double: Clyde Drexler had 39 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds while making 18 of 22 shots. Of course, it was against the Nuggets.

Houston is already writing off No. 1 draft choice Dave Jamerson and regrets trading the rights to Miami Heat rookie Alex Kessler for him. . . . On the other hand, the Rockets have a find in rookie free agent Kennard Winchester, a 6-foot-5, hot-shooting swingman from Averett, the sixth player to make the NBA from NCAA Division III.

Charles Barkley rumble of the week: Coach Jim Lynam benched him for taking an outside shot. Barkley returned to score five fast points inside in a victory over Atlanta. Was he repentant? "I do what the . . . I want to do, is basically it," Barkley said. "I've been shooting the outside shot well. I'm going to keep taking them. . . . I'm mad as hell. If he takes me out on one bad shot, he ought to do it for everybody."

Detroit Coach Chuck Daly, after John Salley totaled seven rebounds and six points in three West Coast games: "John is an enigma wrapped in a riddle." . . . Here's the key: Salley wants to renegotiate, and the Pistons don't. . . . Hawk rookie Rumeal Robinson, asked about his struggles: "Struggling? I don't think I'm struggling. I'm not getting the minutes, and the team hasn't jelled. When I get the minutes, everything will be fine." . . . Atlanta assistant Kevin Loughery: "Did he say that? Well, at least the kid's being honest. See, all the young guys think that way."

Golden State Coach Don Nelson, raving about Tim Hardaway: "I've never had a great point guard before and, to tell you the truth, I didn't know what I was missing. I'll never be without a terrific point guard again. He's my eyes and ears on the court." . . . How great are the Warrior 1-2-3 players, their guards plus small forward? Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Hardaway are averaging 30, 25 and 23 points, shooting 62%, 60% and 47%, respectively. Michael Jordan said Richmond, out about five games with a broken thumb, is his favorite No. 2 guard.

Big D for Devastated: The Dallas Mavericks' loss of Roy Tarpley was a stunner, because they were built to win with him. Their roster is aging: Alex English, 35; Brad Davis, 34; James Donaldson, 33; Herb Williams, 31; Fat Lever and Rolando Blackman, both 30; and Rodney McCray and Derek Harper, both 29.

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