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Center by Committee Likely

October 17, 2003|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

Halfway through the exhibition season, less than two weeks before the start of the regular season, Clipper Coach Mike Dunleavy appears no closer to naming a starting lineup than he was when training camp opened last month.

Elton Brand, Corey Maggette and Quentin Richardson are virtually locked in, but the point guard and center positions are still up for grabs.

After expressing concern this week that none of his point guards had stepped to the forefront, Dunleavy suggested Thursday that he might man the center position "by committee, depending on who we're playing."

But the situation at center is muddled, Dunleavy indicated before and after a 96-93 exhibition loss to the Phoenix Suns at Staples Center, only because of rookie Chris Kaman's injuries and inexperience.

"Ultimately, Chris Kaman will be our starting center," the coach said. "[When] depends on what point in time he's ready for it."

Dunleavy has continued to endorse the 7-footer from Central Michigan, who has stayed in the mix despite sitting out several practices and all but one of four exhibitions because of back and leg injuries.

"I want to play him minutes to get him going on his career and what he can do and how he can do it," Dunleavy said. "I like the way he plays, I like how active he is. He needs to get his feet wet, so I'm willing to live with the production I get from that move. Hopefully, he will come along quickly."

Melvin Ely, approaching his second season, and Predrag Drobnjak, approaching his third, are more experienced, but Ely is undersized for the position and Drobnjak is neither a strong rebounder nor defender. Kaman, the sixth pick in the June draft, is the Clippers' center of the future, if not the present, Dunleavy said.

"I'm not averse to playing young guys," Dunleavy said. "If they can do the things we need them to do, I have no problem putting them out there.

"Matter of fact, I think it would be a positive, because you want your younger guys getting as much time as possible, going through the growing pains and learning the process as quickly as possible."


Ely led the Clippers with 19 points in 30 minutes. ... Kaman, sidelined because of a strained lower left leg, is expected to resume practicing next week. ... Drobnjak and fellow Serb Marko Jaric rejoined the team after taking care of visa matters Wednesday in Nogales, Mexico. Drobnjak scored six points in 17 minutes, Jaric none in seven. ... Brand, who sat out because of a sprained left ankle, also will sit out today against the Cleveland Cavaliers. ... Dunleavy said he would cut the roster from 18 players to 15 before the Clippers leave for Japan on Oct. 26.

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