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Clippers No Match for Suns : Pro basketball: Danny Manning and friends show Los Angeles exactly what it is missing in easy, 108-101 victory at The Pond.

November 13, 1994|CHRIS BAKER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers, who have yet to win a game this season, could sure use all-star forward Danny Manning.

But Manning is long gone.

After spending the first 5 1/2 seasons of his NBA career with the Clippers, Manning faced his old team Saturday night for the second time since he was traded last February to the Atlanta Hawks for all-star forward Dominique Wilkins and a first-round draft pick.

Signed by the Phoenix Suns last September, Manning had 15 points and seven rebounds as the Suns handed the Clippers their fourth loss in as many games, 108-101, before a sellout crowd of 18,018 at The Pond of Anaheim, their home away from home, where they'll play six regular-season games.

Manning, who was booed before the game, took it in stride. "They can boo me if they want; they're entitled to their opinion," he said. "The thing about it is, I expect it because that's how it is here. It's upsetting for me because I play hard."

Dan Majerle had a game-high 33 points, making 10 of 18 shots, including four three-pointers, and former Laker forward A.C. Green had 14 points and 12 rebounds as the Suns beat the Clippers for the sixth game in a row.

"Tonight, Dan had the hot hand and we tried to go with him," Manning said.

The Clippers, who lost their first three games by an average of 18.3 points, played perhaps their best game of the season, coming back from a 18-point fourth-quarter deficit with a 22-11 run in the final 6:40.

Guard Terry Dehere led the Clippers with 19 points and six assists, and point guard Pooh Richardson had 16 points and nine assists. Forward Loy Vaught had 15 points and eight rebounds. Rookie forward Lamond Murray, the Clippers' top draft pick, had 15 points in a reserve role.

It was the first time that Manning, the Clippers' all-time leading scorer with 7,120 points, had played in Southern California since the trade. He seemed nervous in his first game against the Clippers last season, scoring six points as the Hawks lost to the Clippers, 97-94, in March.

"I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of friends," Manning said. "Every game I play I want to win. Does this one make me a little bit hungrier? Yes, it does."

The Clippers made the playoffs two seasons in a row under former coach Larry Brown, extending the Houston Rockets to five games before losing in the first round in 1993 and taking the Utah Jazz to five games before losing in the first round in 1992.

But it quickly fell apart and the Clippers are rebuilding again.

"I had good times and I had bad times," Manning said of his time with the Clippers. "I'm just sorry that we didn't get a chance to play together for a very long time because we took a lot of lumps at first and it would have been nice to reap some of the fruits."

With Manning in the lineup, the Suns, who lost to the Chicago Bulls in the 1993 NBA finals, are considered by many to have a shot at winning the NBA title this season.

"It (signing with Phoenix) was pretty much an easy decision for me," Manning said. "When I went to Phoenix this summer, the next day I was supposed to go to L.A. and talk to the Lakers. I walked into America West (Arena) and said, 'I could come work here every day."

Manning has blended in well, averaging a team-high 20.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and three assists in his first four games with Phoenix.

"He's fit in here well," guard Kevin Johnson said. "One of his greatest assets, other than his skills, is the fact that he's such a good complementary player. He can be an asset to whatever group of guys he's assembled with just because he can do so many things out there on the court both offensively and defensively."

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