On a team beset with question marks, the lone certainty went down Friday when the Clippers announced that star forward Elton Brand ruptured his left Achilles' tendon.
No decision has been made on surgery and no time frame has been set, but Brand is expected to be sidelined for at least the first two months of the upcoming season.
Brand suffered the injury during his daily workout at the Sports Club South Bay in El Segundo. A team official said he went home and was examined there by the Clippers' physician, Tony Daly, who confirmed that he had torn his Achilles'.
Brand had been given the summer off by the U.S. national team to rehab his nagging injuries. The U.S. must qualify for the 2008 Olympics in the American Zone tournament this summer in Las Vegas.
Instead, while trying to protect himself from another grueling summer, Brand hurt himself in the midst of his daily routine.
"Elton called me after it happened and told me about it," General Manager Elgin Baylor said. "He said it hurt, but he was in good spirits.
"I said, 'I went through it. I tore mine [in 1970]. You're young and healthy, you'll come back 100%.'
"It's just a matter of how much time it takes."
At this point, it takes a lot to devastate the Clippers again, but this qualifies.
After winning 47 games in 2005-06 and advancing to the second round of the playoffs in the high point of franchise history here and in previous stops in San Diego and Buffalo, the Clippers' bright promise was already flickering last February when point guard Shaun Livingston suffered a horrendous knee injury.
The team finished 40-42 and missed the playoffs, with Livingston's attempt to come back merely one of their problems for the 2007-08 season.
Center Chris Kaman was a non-factor last season after signing a $51-million contract. Corey Maggette settled his differences with Coach Mike Dunleavy and finished on an uptick, but with only one season left on his contract has yet to sign an extension.
With guards Jason Hart and Daniel Ewing gone, the Clippers reached an agreement Friday with free-agent point guard Brevin Knight on a two-year deal. The team's only other point guards are Livingston, who underwent major knee surgery and isn't expected back before midseason at the earliest, 37-year-old Sam Cassell and 10-day-contract pickup Will Conroy.
Now, the Clippers just found out that on top of everything else, they'll need a power forward.
Replacing Brand won't be as easy as moving Tim Thomas or Aaron Williams into Brand's spot.
From the day he arrived in the fall of 2001, Brand has been the Clippers No. 1 scorer and rebounder. He was also durable, missing only five games the last three seasons.
Known for his effort and industry, Brand improved annually, becoming an All-Star for the second time in the 2005-06 season when his improved mid-range jump shot helped him average a career-best 24.7 points.
However, after feeling the effects of his long summer with the U.S. national team, Brand saw his scoring average fall more than four points to last season's 20.5 with a career-low rebound average of 9.3.
If anyone thought nothing could go wrong, it could.
Whether this finishes off the Clippers' resurgence altogether remains to be seen, but they've looked a lot better recently.
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Elton Brand's year by year statistics:
*--* Year Team G Reb PPG 1999-00 Chicago 81 10.0 20.1 2000-01 Chicago 74 10.1 20.1 2001-02 Clippers 80 11.6 18.2 2002-03 Clippers 62 11.3 18.5 2003-04 Clippers 69 10.4 20.0 2004-05 Clippers 81 9.5 20.0 2005-06 Clippers 79 10.0 24.7 2006-07 Clippers 80 9.3 20.5 *--*
Los Angeles Times