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CLIPPER REPORT

Attendance Still a Work in Progress

January 02, 2004|Jerry Crowe | Times Staff Writer

The Clippers' franchise record of 25 sellouts, set during the high-flying 2001-02 season, is safe for another year.

The Clippers have 24 games left at Staples Center this season and have yet to draw a capacity crowd to the downtown arena, a streak expected to end Sunday night only because they're playing the Lakers.

Two seasons ago, when their potential seemed unlimited and nearly two of every three games were sellouts, they set a club record by drawing 18,053 a game, an average of about 3,500 more than they'd drawn before.

But with last season's disappointments still fresh and popular players such as Lamar Odom and Darius Miles having departed, attendance is down more than 3,200 a game from two seasons ago, even though the Clippers have been better than expected and play an exciting, high-energy style. It's down nearly 2,400 from last season, when nine Clipper home games were sellouts.

Average attendance is 14,852, about 78% of the listed capacity of 19,060, and they've yet to draw a crowd matching their 2001-02 average.

"Ultimately, it's going to be winning" that brings the fans back, Coach Mike Dunleavy said, "and it's not going to be fixed overnight. But I think as you win more and the word of mouth [spreads] from people going to the games, saying they like the brand of basketball, people will identify with that."

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Including 20 points and 10 rebounds in Wednesday night's 120-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets, Elton Brand is averaging 18.4 points and 11.9 rebounds, showing no ill effects of the broken foot that sidelined him for 13 games.

But in the latest All-Star balloting, Brand didn't rank among the top 10 forwards in the West, trailing even reserve Malik Rose of the San Antonio Spurs.

"You're only as good as your last season, or your last game, so when I missed 13 games I didn't expect to get a lot of votes," Brand said. "But now I'm back, so maybe [the votes] will come."

Asked about Rose's popularity in the polls, he laughed.

"San Antonio fans are stuffing."

Brand, though, said he has given little thought to the voting.

"But if I played the whole season and [Rose] was above me, I'd be fuming," he said. "I'd have to get some more dunks on people or something."

An All-Star in 2002, Brand has Dunleavy's support.

"Anybody who understands what it means to be a winner I think will see him and vote for him," the coach said. "You have to love his work ethic in everything he does, and obviously the results also.

"The numbers he's put up for us since he's been back have been terrific. He does everything that we need him to do."

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