PHILADELPHIA — You might say Elton Brand put them in this spot.
So it made sense the Clippers tried to find another way to replace Brand on Friday, the same day they played against their former All-Star forward for the first time since he left Los Angeles.
A few hours before Brand made the shot that led the Philadelphia 76ers to an 89-88 victory, the Clippers completed a multiplayer deal with the New York Knicks, acquiring forward Zach Randolph and guard Mardy Collins in exchange for veteran shooting guard Cuttino Mobley and forward Tim Thomas.
"When someone who averages 20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] is available, you've got to have interest," said Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy of Randolph. "Certainly the first time we had interest in him was when we lost Elton Brand this summer."
Trade talks stalled early this week when the Knicks wanted Marcus Camby. The Clippers made a final offer, and the salary cap-clearing Knicks (preparing for the future, namely, the LeBron James sweepstakes in 2010) completed their second deal of the day, having also acquired disgruntled forward Al Harrington from the Warriors.
Moving Mobley will create some space at shooting guard for the Clippers. Veteran swingman Ricky Davis started at the two against the 76ers, and rookie Eric Gordon will receive a significant increase in playing time.
Then there's the front-court glut of Camby, Chris Kaman, and now Randolph.
Randolph is averaging 20.5 points and 12.5 rebounds, leading the Knicks in both categories. The move gives the Clippers someone with the ability to play in the low post and adds depth. It also makes them younger, considering Randolph is 27, and Mobley and Thomas are 33 and 31.
"First, I think all three of them play together really well," Dunleavy said. "They complement each other. Chris and Zach can play together. Chris and Marcus can play together, and Marcus and Zach can play together."
Mobley and the oft-injured Thomas have expiring contracts, making them highly attractive to the Knicks, who are looking to a Jamesian future.
Reached by telephone in Philadelphia, Mobley spoke in a voice barely above a whisper.
"I'm a little upset," he said. "It was a surprise. I mean, I liked our team. I didn't give up on our team. I don't know what the owner was thinking and don't know what anyone was thinking. I thought we were going to come around. It's hard. It's hard because I like all the guys a lot. It's tough."
Thomas was not surprised that a move was made.
"It's a little shocking to have another chance to play in New York and to be able to play in the system under Mike D'Antoni again," Thomas said. "The way the season was going with the Clippers, you had to know something had to happen.
"From the beginning, once you get 10 new guys, it's going to take time for the guys to jell and to get an understanding. That just never happened."
Upheaval, thy name is Clippers.
"It's kind of surreal right now, not seeing Cat here and Tim," Kaman said.
Now comes another big piece in the mix. There have been questions about Randolph's character, though Dunleavy says he has received assurances about Randolph from sources in Portland.
Kaman and Camby remain a work in progress, let alone dealing with another new part.
"It's tough getting used to everybody," Kaman said. "I'm just looking forward to it, and winning some more games. He [Randolph] is good. I'm just saying I don't know how he fits in with what we do. I'm sure he can play any system. He's proved that already. He just has to figure everything out."
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Trying a change of scenery
A look at the Clippers' four-player trade with the New York Knicks.
To the Clippers
*--* Name FG% FT% Reb. A Stl Blk Pts. Zach Randolph, F 43.4 82.1 12.5 1.4 1.2 0.27 20.5 Mardy Collins, G 34.8 44.4 0.9 1.1 0.2 0.0 2.2 *--*
To the Knicks
*--* Name FG% FT% Reb. A Stl Blk Avg. Cuttino Mobley, G 43.2 72.2 2.6 1.1 1.4 0.18 13.7 Tim Thomas, F 37.8 61.8 4.6 1.0 0.3 0.10 9.5 *--*