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NBA SEASON PREVIEW / 2002-03

At A Glance

October 29, 2002|Elliott Teaford

2001-02 record: 39-43, 5th place in Pacific Division.

Coach: Alvin Gentry, third season.

Who's gone: Earl Boykins (free agent), Obinna Ekezie (free agent), Harold Jamison (trade), Jeff McInnis (free agent), Darius Miles (trade), Doug Overtime (free agent).

Who's new: Melvin Ely (2002 draft), Marko Jaric (2000 draft), Andre Miller (trade), Cherokee Parks (free agent), Wang Zhizhi (free agent), Chris Wilcox (2002 draft).

Projected starting lineup: SF-Corey Maggette (Lamar Odom when he returns from sprained ankle), PF-Elton Brand, C-Michael Olowokandi, SG-Quentin Richardson, PG-Miller.

Projected bench rotation: PG-Jaric, PF-Wilcox, C-Wang, SG-Eric Piatkowski, C-Sean Rooks.

Keys to the season: Given the string of injuries the Clippers suffered during training camp, staying physically sound is one of the season's top priorities. The team will start the season with three players on the injured list. Living for the moment and forgetting contract concerns should be another significant goal. Olowokandi has a good deal to prove as he attempts to show NBA teams, including the Clippers, he is worth a so-called "max" contract. Brand, Odom, Maggette and Miller also are eligible to receive new long-term contracts next summer. The Clippers must play together, avoiding the temptation to pad statistics in an attempt to increase their value in off-season contract negotiations.

Outlook: More than one forecaster has wondered whether the Clippers have too much of a good thing. It's a valid question. Few teams have as remarkable a collection of talented players as the Clippers, and that includes the Lakers and Sacramento Kings. Everyone wants to play, everyone wants to score, everyone wants to be a star. It's not possible for Gentry to please all of the Clippers all of the time. Don't expect to see the Clippers outlasting the Lakers, Kings or San Antonio Spurs next spring, in other words.

Tickets: (800) 462-2849.

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-- Elliott Teaford

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