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Clippers are final downer on a washout of a day

October 22, 2008|T.J. SIMERS

I find myself at a Clippers game. A preseason Clippers game after spending six wasted hours at Santa Anita with Dwyre, the day absolutely perfect if only the Kings had a morning skate or the wife needed company while shopping for new towels.

I don't know what to do with myself now that baseball has been reduced to Philly and Tampa, so I'm standing in the hallway outside the Clippers locker room at Staples Center talking to Baron Davis trying to see whether he's got what it takes to electrify the city the way Manny Ramirez did.

That's when the big stiff from Denver walks by.

You remember the guy who looked just dreadful trying to shoot the basketball, couldn't score against the Lakers in the playoffs last season, and now Marcus Camby is with the Clippers.

But then where else would you expect him to be playing?

We haven't even met, and yet holy Tim Thomas, we're exchanging unpleasantries as he runs by, his final word an obscene one.

Maybe he knows I once worked in Denver, Camby still bitter at everyone and anything having to do with Denver because the Nuggets jumped at the chance to dump him.

Whatever his reason for calling someone a name, how great is that? Obviously, he's no Elton Brand, but just when it looked as if we might never see the disagreeable likes of Kevin Brown, Kenny Lofton or Jeff Kent around here again, Page 2 gets the guy who can't shoot from Denver.

Can't wait to talk to him after every game about the two shots he took and why they didn't go in.

Thomas doesn't really count, because he hasn't played that much, isn't very dependable and for that matter very good, so ordinarily there's no reason to waste any time on him. And besides, after the third game of the season or so, the Clippers are usually eliminated from the playoffs and it's time to gush some more about the Lakers.

Coach Mike Dunleavy, who is also now GM Mike Dunleavy, said this season will be different. It already is. He's still here coaching after going to war with owner Donald Sterling last season.

He said the Clippers have the talent to double the 23 wins the team recorded a season ago, and make the playoffs. He said Davis is the best point guard since Magic Johnson, and Davis takes a team to another level.

I'm just trying to picture Magic Johnson playing for the Clippers and whether even that would make a difference.

"It's all on you this season," I told Davis while shaking hands for the first time.

"Bring it on," said Davis with a grin. "Absolutely, we can be a playoff team. In the beginning we're going to have to find our identity, but we've got the talent here.

"We know there's a huge gap between us and the Lakers. They own the gym, we rent it and they've got All-Stars who have been together, they win and they have the best player in the NBA. We're just putting it together, but it's a start."

And they start the season against the Lakers, poor Camby, but a chance for everyone else to measure themselves against the best of the west. Just hope they're not eliminated this time around on opening night.

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WHEN YOU first hear it, the notion that he would agree to coach the San Francisco 49ers, no way Uncle Pete is going to ever work for folks considered as wacko as the Yorks, although he did have no trouble embracing Mike Garrett.

OK, so no way he's going to work in a dump like Candlestick Park -- even though league officials don't consider the Coliseum NFL worthy.

He's so happy at USC, putting aside for a moment the fact the former Bay area native made himself available for an interview while on vacation a few years back with Miami owner Wayne Huizenga, returning to L.A. and telling reporters he was waiting on a phone call from Huizenga.

He's so happy here, right?

Carroll will no longer respond to NFL rumors, shucking the latest aside Tuesday, because it's tough to say "I have no interest in the NFL" after making himself available for interviews with Atlanta and Washington as recently as last year.

He's so happy at USC as long as NFL teams interview him on occasion.

But as Greg Johnson reported in a Times' blog recently, Carroll was also USC's highest-paid employee at $3.9 million this past fiscal year according to the school's most recent IRS filing.

You think anyone in the NFL is going to pay him more? Just takes one, someone fed up with losing (49ers), needing some excitement in their organization (49ers), and maybe a reason to ask for a new stadium (49ers).

Mixed messages aside, though, and all those past interviews, Carroll is only going to go to the NFL if he knows he has a chance to compete.

In reality, so few teams offer that chance, which includes an open checkbook and power to make personnel decisions.

And Carroll knows enough about the 49ers to know that opportunity is not available in San Francisco.

So he will stay here, and continue to monopolize the college football scene in Los Angeles. And after watching UCLA play Saturday, he's really got it pretty easy.

--

TODAY'S LAST word comes in e-mail from AEG Honcho Tim Leiweke:

"At least you realized there is still a hockey team in town. Go to a game with me and I will show you why you are wrong about the Kings."

I'll take you up on that -- as long as Beckham joins us.

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t.j.simers@latimes.com

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