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The Inside Track | T.J. Simers

Clippers' Victories Are No Joke for These Kids

May 13, 2006|T.J. Simers

It began as a joke before the season, Corey Maggette talking about the success the Clippers were going to have this season, and Page 2 laughing.

It certainly wasn't the first time we disagreed -- going back to our initial meeting years ago when I said, "Hello," and he said, "Goodbye."

Maggette was so confident the Clippers were going to have a good season, though, he said he'd be willing to spend a lot of money to prove it, pledging to donate $500 to Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA for every victory.

Big deal, I scoffed, the Clippers win their customary handful of games and the millionaire donates pocket change to the kids.

Clippers owner Donald Sterling followed Maggette's lead, agreeing to also donate $500 for every win, and you know from experience he wasn't counting on spending a lot.

Steve Soboroff and Marty Adelstein, a pair of Clippers season-ticket holders -- and who knew there were any of those -- also put up big money for each win, making it a total of $1,800 for each victory.

Then something quite extraordinary began to happen, the Clippers winning basketball games at a faster pace than the Lakers, and although that's not unusual these days for most teams, it's a Clippers' badge of honor.

The wins began to pile up, the Clippers finishing with more wins than losses, finishing ahead of the Lakers and then adding four more victories in the first round of the playoffs.

Then one more in Phoenix, making it 52 combined regular-season and playoff wins, and with one more victory in this series it will be the most in Buffalo/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers franchise history.

Now there's nothing good about spending time on the pediatric cancer ward at Mattel -- save the amazing work done by the medical staff -- but if you need help, the timing of a miracle is everything.

Is there anything else to call 52 Clippers' wins, and counting? Before Friday night's game, Maggette, Sterling, Soboroff and Adelstein got together on the court and handed the kids' caretaker, Dr. Kathleen Sakamoto, a check for $100,000.

It was a miracle, all right, for the first time in 14 years, according to a Clippers spokesperson, Sterling agreeing to come onto the court and be introduced to the crowd, confident, I guess, that no one would boo the owner of a playoff basketball team who is handing over his part of a $100,000 check to help sick kids.

It was touch and go, but he was right, no one booed.

As for the total -- $100,000 -- there's some confusion. Soboroff upped his ante to $1,000 for each first-round playoff victory and $1,500 for each second-round triumph, but by every calculator that would still have accounted for only $96,600.

"One hundred thousand dollars sounded better," said a Clippers official, and as far as the folks at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA are concerned, the Clippers can't do anything wrong these days.

*

FOR PAGE 2, however, it's different. The Clippers let Game 3 get away.

Dr. Phil was in the crowd, and Coach Mike Dunleavy sure could have used some timely advice. Dunleavy stayed with a tired and inexperienced Shaun Livingston late in the fourth quarter, freezing Sam Cassell, who has more playoff experience than all of the Clippers combined.

When he finally did go to Cassell, the old man had obviously stiffened, sitting on the bench all that time and came up woefully short on a key long-range shot. The Suns pounced on Dunleavy's personnel miscalculation, and reclaimed the home-court advantage.

*

JIM ANDERSEN and his daughter Emily from Laguna Beach were sitting in the stands, noticeable because 18-year-old Emily was wearing a red T-shirt, which read: "Kaman is a sexy beast."

I asked dad how he felt about that, and he said, "I fully support it. If Kaman asked her to the prom, and showed up in a brown velour tux driving a funky pickup truck, it would be a dream come true."

I checked with Emily, who already has a date for the Santa Margarita High prom, and she said she'd have no trouble dumping her date if Kaman called.

That tells me the kid is probably a grocery store bagger.

*

THEY ARE selling "Fasten Your Seat Belt" T-shirts in the gift shop at Staples Center for $25, the saying, of course, coming from long-time Clippers broadcaster Ralph Lawler. So what's Lawler's cut for each T-shirt?

"The satisfaction of knowing someone heard what I said," said Lawler, and if you've been doing Clippers broadcasts all your life, you'd understand.

*

PHIL MICKELSON had courtside seats. Wonder whom he was betting on.

*

I WAS studying my Clipper playbook and noticed that Brittany, one of the Clipper Spirit dancers, said most people don't know that her favorite animal "is the camel because they spit and have humps." I sometimes wonder if the other reporters put in as much work.

*

MISS RADIO PERSONALITY said she would line up a guest for the Mother's Day edition of the father/daughter gabfest on 570 at 9 a.m., and today she informed me that Frank's Old Lady has agreed to appear on Sunday's show. I wonder if the daughter told the Dodgers her old man would be joining her on the radio.

*

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from Bryan Lord:

"I hope the worst for you in life and hope you get hit by a train one day. Be a man and interview Kobe and say that stuff to his face."

Do I have to cross train tracks to get to him?

T.J. Simers can be reached at t.j.simers@latimes.com. To read previous columns by Simers, go to latimes.com/simers.

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