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Olowokandi Earns Notice for Improvement

February 07, 2001|LONNIE WHITE

OAKLAND — He may wear the same No. 34 Clipper jersey as he did three months ago, but center Michael Olowokandi is not the same player. Not based on his recent improved play.

Olowokandi had a season-high 21 points, to go with six rebounds and two blocked shots, Monday against Chicago. He had 14 points, six rebounds and seven blocked shots against San Antonio; he had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots against Boston. And he had 12 points, 10 rebounds and three blocked shots against Denver.

"We talk all the time that we have to throw the ball inside to [Olowokandi] a little more," said Coach Alvin Gentry, whose team will go for its first four-game winning streak of the season tonight against Golden State.

"We know when he is double-teamed that he will not get up a lot of [shots] but we still have to get the ball to him. He is doing a much better job . . . and making good strong moves. Another key is that he has improved his free-throw shooting."

Olowokandi, averaging slightly under three blocks in his last 13 games, has lost a few pounds since the start of the season but he has not lost any strength while gaining quickness.

Gentry said Olowokandi has gotten better since he began working with assistant coach Igor Kokoskov.

"Igor has done a great job of taking Michael to the side and making sure he gets attention individually, especially on his footwork," Gentry said. "I think it is starting to pay off."

Kokoskov, who joined the coaching staff at the start of training camp, works with Olowokandi every day at practice and before games.

"Michael . . . can have games like he did [against Chicago] more often," Kokoskov said. "He is very focused on his game now. His [production] now is something natural for him."

After struggling his first two seasons and at the start of this one, Olowokandi is starting to realize that some nights, the Clippers are not going to need a big scoring game from him in order to have success.

"That's how you play basketball, you take advantage of your mismatches," Olowokandi said after his strong game against the Bulls. "But the key with us always is being able to play defense. When we are able to guard players [man-to-man]."


at Golden State, 7:30

* Site--The Arena in Oakland.

* Radio--KXTA (1150).

* Records--Clippers 16-33, Warriors 14-33.

* Record vs. Warriors--1-0.

* Update--The Warriors have lost five consecutive games and two in succession to the Clippers.

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