It's a little premature to pick the league's most valuable player before the full rosters of the All-Star teams have even been announced, but Clipper Coach Alvin Gentry has his top two candidates.
"You would have to go with Allen Iverson the way he's playing and Philadelphia is winning," Gentry said, "but Chris Webber would have to be a real close second with the numbers he's put up."
Gentry said that Saturday even before Sacramento's Webber put up 33 points in the teams' first meeting this season.
"I think Sacramento is arguably the best team in the West," Gentry said. "Of course, you can talk about the guys cross-town struggling, but somebody will still have to go through this building [Staples Center] and beat the Lakers to get out of the West."
With the season just past the halfway mark, Gentry was asked what was best and worst about the first 41 games.
"The best thing is that we have been able to compete," he said. "The worst thing is that we have had so many devastating losses. We can't win the close ones. I can count five or six games where we had the game won and we still lost it. That makes a big difference."
One statistic in particular illustrates the Clippers' failures in tight games. They have gone into overtime six times and lost all six.
Are the young Clippers at least learning from their narrow defeats?
"I'm tired of learning lessons from losing," Gentry said. "I want to start learning some lessons from winning."
Eric Piatkowski started at guard in place in Quentin Richardson, who is out because of a bruised left toe, an injury suffered in Wednesday night's game against the Seattle SuperSonics.
That was convenient for Gentry, who had been considering leaving Piatkowski in the starting lineup after the swingman scored a season-high 30 points Wednesday in his first start of the season. Piatkowski was in the lineup that night for forward Lamar Odom, who was being disciplined for missing a practice.
Would Piatkowski have started Saturday even without the injury to Richardson?
"Probably," Gentry said, "but I didn't have to make that decision.
"I like Pike [Piatkowski] playing off the bench. You've got to have firepower off the bench, instant offense."
What would a trip to L.A. for a visiting NBA star be without a question about the feud between the Lakers' Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant?
Sure enough, Webber was asked which one he would rather see with the ball in his hands.
"I'd rather have them both on the bench," Webber said. "I don't buy into that stuff about who should be shooting the ball. They are both dangerous. With them, it's a Catch-22 as to who shoots it."
The Clippers close out their four-game home stand Monday night against the San Antonio Spurs. It's also the first of back-to-back games with the Spurs. The Clippers play in San Antonio Wednesday, and in Houston Thursday.