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CLIPPER REPORT

Rice Could Return to L.A. in a Different Uniform

October 07, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Glen Rice could be returning to Los Angeles -- as a Clipper.

Clipper sources, one of whom labeled as "high" the club's interest in signing the sharpshooting free-agent forward, indicated Monday that the club is expected to make a formal pitch for the former Laker after he clears waivers Wednesday.

Rice, who in 2000 helped the Lakers launch a run of three consecutive NBA championships, worked out for the Clippers on Sunday night.

At 36, with a big contract and a history of leg injuries, the three-time All-Star was traded last week from the Houston Rockets to the Utah Jazz, who on Friday reached agreement with Rice on a contract buyout that makes him a free agent. He was due about $7.35 million this season in the last year of his contract.

The Jazz waived him Monday.

The team that eventually signs the 14-year veteran could get him for as little as the $1-million veterans' minimum, of which the NBA would pay half.

The Clippers, thin at big guard and small forward and searching for a consistent outside threat after losing Lamar Odom and Eric Piatkowski via free agency over the summer, moved quickly to bring Rice in for a workout.

The Clippers declined to comment, but they probably would use Rice in a three-man rotation with swingmen Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson. However, the Clippers are not expected to be the only team interested.

Though he averaged only nine points in 62 games with the Rockets last season, Rice is said to be in great shape and eager to continue playing.

Among the top 50 scorers in NBA history, he has averaged 18.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 982 games with the Miami Heat, Charlotte Hornets, Lakers, New York Knicks and Rockets while making 40.2% of his three-point shots.

In the 1996-97 season, the former Michigan star averaged a career-high 26.8 points to finish third in the NBA scoring race behind Michael Jordan and Karl Malone. He was the most valuable player in the 1997 All-Star game.

In the 2000 NBA Finals, during which his wife, Cristina, criticized Laker Coach Phil Jackson for under-using him, he set a championship-series record by making 63.2% of his three-point shots in helping the Lakers defeat the Indiana Pacers.

Last March, he scored a season-high 25 points in a victory over the Clippers.

Since averaging 15.9 points for the Lakers in the 1999-2000 regular season, the 6-foot-8 Rice has not scored as consistently. Traded to the Knicks in a four-team deal that brought Horace Grant to the Lakers on Sept. 20, 2000, he has averaged 10.3 points in 157 games in the last three seasons.

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The Clippers open their eight-game exhibition season tonight at Sacramento with 17 players, a few hanging tenuously to roster spots.

"There are guys that are further along than others," Coach Mike Dunleavy said. "There are some sure shots out there; there are a certain number of guys that are definites.

"But there are guys out there that, based on their performance, can make the team. And it may not be guys that people think are going to make the team."

Marcus Hatten, an undrafted 6-foot guard from St. John's, and Quinton Ross, an undrafted 6-6 guard from Southern Methodist, are the only Clippers who do not have contracts that are at least partially guaranteed.

They are thought to be in a battle with forward Tremaine Fowlkes, a holdover from last season with a partially guaranteed contract, for the final roster spot.

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Centers Wang Zhizhi and rookie Chris Kaman are questionable for tonight's game, Zhizhi because of a sprained left foot and Kaman because of a strained left calf.

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