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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO

Clippers' Loss to Rockets Fits Franchise to a Tease

March 05, 1997|RANDY HARVEY

The last time I saw a Clipper game before Tuesday night, owner Donald T. Sterling was jokingly, I think, directing traffic in the parking lot. It's not normally a demanding job for the team at the Sports Arena, certainly not so much so that Sterling would have to give up his day job.

These, however, are not normal times. There was an actual traffic jam outside the building Tuesday night as the Clippers' game against Houston drew a crowd of 10,893, their first of more than 8,000 at the Sports Arena since Dec. 12.

I'm wondering now what we expected to see.

The Clippers' eighth consecutive home victory, tying their record since moving to Los Angeles? A team gaining on a .500 record? A legitimate playoff contender?

Instead, we saw the same old Clippers, either lovable or laughable depending on your level of compassion. They worked hard, stayed close and lost by four, 113-109.

I'm leaning toward laughable because the Rockets were ready to be taken Tuesday night, having lost eight consecutive road games.

Charles Barkley and Clyde Drexler didn't play because of injuries. Two who did play were Eddie Johnson and Sedale Threatt, neither of whom was with the team before last weekend.

But with Hakeem Olajuwon inside and Matt Bullard and Mario Elie outside, the Rockets found a way to win. That's what they do.

The Clippers built up expectations only to let down their crowd. That's what they do.

*

Crucial games at Washington State on Thursday and Washington on Saturday probably will determine whether USC earns an invitation to the NCAA tournament, but don't waste time trying to locate either on television. Not even on the phantom channel, Fox Sports West 2, will you find them. . . .

The Kings exiled Barry Potomski to Phoenix, probably never to return, because he purposely slashed Dimitri Khristich in the eye with his stick, but Khristich complained on Russian-language radio that the punishment wasn't severe enough. . . .

"I guess we could have sent him to jail," King Coach Larry Robinson says. . . .

Khristich probably was thinking Siberia. . . .

Possibly going to jail is Colorado goalie Patrick Roy because of his part in a nightclub fight last weekend. First, he's returning to Montreal tonight for the first time since he was traded last season. Scalpers are getting $150 for tickets. . . .

Larry the Legend, who became one by winning the 1995 Santa Anita Derby, has lost seven consecutive races, including a last-place finish in Sunday's San Carlos Handicap at Santa Anita. But owner Craig Lewis believes he has discovered the problem. Larry is undergoing surgery for an elongated soft palate. . . .

While on the subject of legends, Tom Lasorda's life would have been considerably altered if he had been successful in a 1961 tryout to become an NBA referee. . . .

He lost out to Joe Gushue, who died in November at 64 after 20 years as one of the league's best referees. . . .

"'It was the best thing that ever happened to Tommy,' my father used to say,' " says Gushue's daughter, Nancy Jelen. "'Look where he wound up."'

Lasorda definitely will become a baseball Hall of Famer. I hope it's today.

*

Need more evidence that 1996 was the year of the woman in the Olympics?

For the first time, all of the L.A. Amateur Athletic Foundation's World Trophy winners for last year are women--swimmers Amy Van Dyken of the United States, Penny Heyns of South Africa and Susan O'Neill of Australia, heptathlete Ghada Shouaa of Syria, hurdler Deon Hemmings of Jamaica and runners Svetlana Masterkova of Russia and Marie-Jose Perec of France.

More sobering news for women athletes is that, according to a USA Today survey, only nine of 108 NCAA Division I-A schools were in compliance with Title IX last year.

Two are in the Pacific 10, Washington and Washington State. At UCLA, 51% of the undergraduates are women but only 39% of the athletes. At USC, the corresponding numbers are 47% and 36%.

*

While wondering why the NCAA allows college basketball teams with losing records to play in the tournament, I was thinking: Fairfield should be called Poorfield, the St. Louis Rams now have two ironheads in the backfield, chill the umpires.

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