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T.J. Simers

Clippers Hear Battle Cry: Win One for the Lakers

April 17, 2003|T.J. Simers

Decisions, decisions. Wednesday night in Los Angeles, the Dodgers, Clippers and Ducks were all in action, so which game do you write about?

As you may know, I'm working on an idea to make the donkey the Dodgers' mascot this year. The Angels were in the dumper much like the Dodgers a year ago at this time, but it was the rally monkey, more than anyone else in that organization, who saved them.

Unfortunately, the Dodger Donkey artwork that I've designed for the scoreboard -- featuring Kevin Brown riding atop a mule, or whatever they call a donkey -- hasn't gotten final approval from Mr. Grumpy, so it might be this weekend before we can get together to discuss it.

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CAN YOU imagine going to two hockey games in the same week? Two Duck games?

Now I know where they got the name for that TV show: "Just Shoot Me."

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THAT LEFT the Clippers, who actually held the fate of the Lakers in their hands -- a Clipper victory sending the Lakers to Minnesota, a loss matching them against Dallas -- as long as the Lakers took care of business against Golden State.

I called the Lakers Wednesday afternoon, got the L.A. area's best PR guy, John Black, and asked him if he could check with Coach Phil Jackson and find out who the Lakers would prefer to play -- Minnesota or Dallas -- so I could either fire up the Clippers or depress them by reminding them how much they stink.

"Well, let me ask, he's sitting in front of me here on the team bus," Black said, and that's why he's the best -- it's like he has a leash on Jackson.

I could hear Black talking to Jackson, telling him what I wanted, and maybe it's a team bus policy, but Jackson didn't respond with a curse word. I heard him say something dull like he just wanted everything to play out as it should, and then Black came back to say, "Phil says there are fine restaurants in both Dallas and Minneapolis," and I guess Jackson's most colorful quotes come when Black makes them up for him.

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I ASKED Clipper coaches and players what they thought was the best playoff path for the Lakers -- playing Dallas and Sacramento in the first two rounds after a Clipper loss or Minnesota and San Antonio after a Clipper win -- when it dawned on me: What would the Clippers know about the playoffs?

Eric Piatkowski had no idea the Clipper game would have an impact on the Lakers' playoff plans, and Andre Miller said he thought somebody might get home-court advantage but he had no idea whom.

I believe the Lakers would have it easier playing Minnesota, which has never advanced beyond the first round, and then take on San Antonio, which is 1-8 against the Lakers in postseason play the last two seasons. I mentioned this to the Clippers, delivering a very compelling "Win One for the Lakers" speech, if I say so myself, and telling them they could tell their grandchildren one day that the Lakers wouldn't have won a fourth-consecutive title had it not been for their contribution.

I guess that explains what happened next. They went ahead, 44-37, and Lamar Odom was playing as if there were no tomorrow for the Clippers. (I didn't have the heart, of course, to tell him there really wasn't.)

It was 59-49 Clippers, and I thought about what Clipper assistant coach Rex Kalamian had said before the game: "I've heard through the grapevine that Dallas sent word here to some guys: 'Help us -- beat Portland.' If I were the Mavericks, and I had to become a Clipper fan to avoid playing the Lakers, I'd do it too.

At the end of three quarters the Clippers were up by five, and Jessica, a Clipper intern, said Black, the Laker PR guy, was calling every five minutes from Oakland for the Clippers' score. I thought the Lakers didn't care who they played in the playoffs -- either that, or they were in a mighty big rush to make those dinner reservations.

The Clippers were manhandling Portland, which went 2-2 against Dallas and 1-3 against Minnesota, so it was in its best interests to try and beat the Clippers, which made this remarkable. The Lakers, meanwhile, were ahead in Golden State, and then tied -- making one wonder if they really did want to open with Dallas.

The Clippers finally won by 14, beating a team that defeated the Lakers Sunday. The Lakers slipped past Golden State, and I'd imagine it's party time in Dallas with the Mavericks getting the Trail Blazers instead of the Lakers.

The Clippers, meanwhile, get credit for sending the Lakers to Minnesota, and bypassing the Kings until the Western Conference finals. I imagine they expect a parade down Figueroa now -- think about it --

it's probably their best chance of getting

one.

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I WENT to the H.G. Dad Miller Golf Course in Anaheim Wednesday for the groundbreaking on the $25 million Tiger Woods Learning Center, but got stopped by Anaheim Police. I presume they were afraid I was going to ruin everything and bag on Woods for blaming his caddie for his bad tee shot on No. 3 in the Masters that led to his demise. I was going to mention it, but I just thought it would be my contribution to the Tiger Woods Learning Curve.

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I ASKED Clipper Coach Dennis Johnson if Michael Olowokandi was going to be at the game. I just wanted the chance to say goodbye.

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TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Eleanor Thedford:

"Your article in today's Times is as stupid as you are."

And you read it.

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T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com

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