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School remains in session for Clippers

Coach Kim Hughes acknowledges the team is out of the playoff race, but says it can 'try to get a little bit better every day.'

February 16, 2010|By Kevin Baxter

Anybody with basic math skills and a passing knowledge of NBA history had already figured it out. But with two months left in the season, it was still surprising to hear Clippers Coach Kim Hughes admit the obvious Monday.

"We're out of the playoffs, clearly," he said.

And with his Clippers heading into Tuesday's game at Portland 10 games under .500, trailing eighth-place Portland by 8 1/2 games in the Western Conference and having lost eight of their last nine, it's clear he's right.

But as the Clippers know oh so well, there's more to basketball than just winning.

"My thought is you don't look at it that way," said Hughes, interim coach of a team that has reached the postseason just once since 1997. "You look at trying to teach every day. Try to get a little bit better every day."

For example, in Monday's practice, the first after the four-day All-Star break, Hughes said the themes were acknowledgment and trust. Acknowledgment, he said, means acknowledging mistakes. And trust means counting on the other guy to help out on defense or run the right play on offense.

Those are team concepts, though. And even the relentlessly upbeat Hughes admitted they could be a difficult sell on a team with eight players heading for free agency after this season.

"Could be," he acknowledged. "But I'm not buying into that. I think you always have to think team first. It can't be an egotistical game. Because then you have no chance for success.

"Sometimes at this time of year that can be tough. And that's the trouble of teaching this time of year. But I believe in teaching. I believe that if I can reach five or six of them, that's better than nothing."

Trade winds

One player Hughes soon may have to reach by long distance is veteran forward Marcus Camby, who has been the subject of trade talk as Thursday's deadline approaches. Camby turns 36 next month but ranks second in the league with 12.1 rebounds a game, and with just nine weeks left on his $9.15-million contract, he could be a valuable pickup for a playoff contender.

"You can't just tune it out," said Camby, who is playing with his fourth NBA team. "You know you're going to hear it. You look at the whole scenario and . . . which teams want you."

Another Clipper whose name has come up in trade rumors is third-year forward Al Thornton, who is averaging nearly 11 points a game coming off the bench. But speaking only for himself, Camby said Monday he'd like to stay.

"My preference is to be here in L.A.," Camby said. "It's always good to be wanted [but] I would love to finish my career here."

Uncontested baskets

Golden State blew out the Clippers in the last game before the break, winning by 30, and that left a sour taste in Hughes' mouth.

"I really despise the Golden State game," he said. "I can't understand why we played that way."

One reason may have been the 40 easy points -- six baskets on dunks and 14 layups -- the Clippers allowed. "From now on we're keeping track of layups," Hughes said. "And I've told [the players] I don't want to give up any layups. If you can't block the shot, then you've got to attack the guy and stop him from shooting a layup.

"If you get a foul, I'm OK with that. But we can't give up layups. There's either got to be a blocked shot or contact."

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