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Clippers lose two big men, will gain one

Forwards Brian Cook and Craig Smith, injured during weekend games in Detroit and Chicago, will be out for several weeks, the team says. Ike Diogu, a 6-foot-9 free agent, is expected to be signed Wednesday.

December 21, 2010|By Lisa Dillman

Big men, suddenly, are in extremely short supply around here.

Two games on consecutive nights took out two Clippers forwards on their recent trip and the news regarding both players was not encouraging Tuesday.

Craig Smith (herniated disk) and Brian Cook (sprained right ankle) won't be back until next month, and Smith's longer-term availability will depend on how he responds to the epidural he received Tuesday.

"We're going to have to find a way to weather the storm here for the next couple of weeks," Clipper coach Vinny Del Negro said, not aiming for a clever weather-related line. "Be creative with our lineups and adjustments."

Creativity extended to bringing in some emergency help. To add depth to their injury-depleted squad, the Clippers are expected to sign 27-year-old power forward Ike Diogu as a free agent on Wednesday.

Diogu, who is 6 feet 9, was at the team's practice facility Tuesday afternoon for a workout session. Diogu, a lottery pick in 2005 (No. 9 overall), had microfracture surgery last year on his left knee. He has bounced around since starting his NBA career with Golden State and was cut by Detroit just before the regular season started.

The need for such a move became urgent when Smith got hurt Saturday in Chicago. He fell on the court going after a loose ball, which exacerbated his back symptoms.

Smith had an MRI exam Monday, which revealed the herniated disk in his lower back, and he was examined by back specialist Dr. Robert Watkins. Smith is listed as being out a minimum of two weeks.

But that doesn't mean he will be back playing in two weeks. Clippers trainer Jasen Powell said they will see how Smith responds to the epidural; another injection could be necessary.

Cook will be out three weeks, Del Negro said. Powell said he viewed the tape of Friday's game at Detroit several times to see how Cook suffered the injury. Right away, the ankle "blew up heavy," Powell said.

Not only did Cook roll the ankle, but, before it happened, Detroit's DaJuan Summers came down hard on Cook's foot.

There was one small step forward, so to speak. Center Chris Kaman, who has been dealing with a lingering right ankle sprain, got out of his walking boot Tuesday. He has been out since the Dec. 5 game against Portland.

A little bit of Italy

Del Negro had to get tough with the Clipper kids recently, the day after a desultory performance in Philadelphia. Since, they have rolled off three straight wins.

"The Italian came out in me a little bit," he said. "You've got to pick your spots with that a little bit. But the guys responded well."

On a scale of one to 10 . . . how angry was he?

"Probably a good solid seven," Del Negro said.

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