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Cassell Proves to Be the Real Steal

CLIPPER REPORT

February 26, 2006|Jason Reid | Times Staff Writer

General Manager Elgin Baylor isn't one to gloat about trades.

Things often change quickly in the NBA, Baylor says, and it's foolish to offend trading partners.

That aside, Baylor acknowledged the trade that brought point guard Sam Cassell to the Clippers has worked out well for them.

"It was a terrific trade, it has been a great trade for us, but you have to wait and see the end results," Baylor said. "Our best trade ever? We also traded for Elton Brand, so I wouldn't say that."

On Aug. 12, the Clippers sent guards Marko Jaric, who received a $37.875-million contract in the sign-and-trade deal, and seldom-used Lionel Chalmers to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Cassell and a lottery-protected first-round pick in this year's draft.

Cassell, selected as a Clipper co-captain with Brand, emerged as the team leader in training camp, and his clutch shooting has been among the keys to the team's successful season.

The 13-year veteran has played in 53 of 54 games, averaging 17.6 points and a team-leading 6.5 assists, but he has struggled from the field recently.

Jaric lost his job as the Timberwolves' starting point guard before the All-Star break. He has played in 48 of 54 games, averaging 9.2 points, 4.8 assists and shooting 41.5%.

Cassell has made a major contribution, Baylor said, but the off-season addition of swingman Cuttino Mobley, the improvement of Brand and continued development of 7-foot center Chris Kaman have been equally important for the Clippers.

"Mobley has been great, Brand has been great and Kaman has been great ... they also deserve a lot of the credit," Baylor said.

"Cassell could take all the shots he wants to in the fourth quarter, but we'd be so far behind without all those other guys that it wouldn't matter. It wouldn't make a difference if the other guys weren't playing at the levels they are."

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At the beginning of training camp, Cassell told teammates that Brand would be the Clipper "horse," and Brand would carry the team as far as it would go.

Brand delivered again in Friday's 102-83 rout of the Lakers, scoring a team-high 32 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. Brand scored 16 points on seven-for-10 shooting in the decisive third quarter, including nine points in a 16-0 run as the Clippers broke open the game, 78-60. His performance was especially important because Kaman suffered an ankle injury late in the first quarter and did not return.

"When we're not doing what we need to do, what we're supposed to do, I just look at E.B. and go, 'Horse, I need you now. Let's go get it done, horse,' " Cassell said.

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Kaman is the latest key player sidelined because of injury, joining swingmen Corey Maggette and Quinton Ross on the bench. Kaman was expected to miss at least two games, a team spokesman said, but Maggette and Ross weren't supposed to have been out as long they've been.... The Clippers raised more than $130,000 for Children's Hospital on Saturday at their annual charity bowling event in Norwalk.

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