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Clippers Curse? No, it's life in the NBA

Injuries are part of the game. It's bad personnel decisions that have haunted the Clippers over the years, but that may not be such a problem under new GM Neil Olshey.

February 07, 2012|By Houston Mitchell
  • Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, left, talks with guard Chris Paul during a game against New Jersey last month. With Billups' season-ending injury threatening to derail the Clippers' strong season, some might believe a dark cloud hangs over the franchise.
Clippers guard Chauncey Billups, left, talks with guard Chris Paul during… (Jason Redmond / Associated…)

Monday night's Clippers victory over the Orlando Magic was marred by an Achilles' tendon injury to Chauncey Billups, who is a big reason the Clippers are 15-7 and in second place in the Western Conference.

On Tuesday, the Internet was abuzz with fans pointing to Billups' injury as another example of the "Clippers Curse."

One problem. There is no Clippers Curse. To be sure, there have been times when players have been injured: Blake Griffin missed his first season because of a knee injury. Danny Manning, the Clippers' top pick in 1988, blew out his knee in his rookie season. The team traded two first-round picks for Tiny Archibald in 1977; one month into the season, he tore his Achilles' tendon and missed the entire season. Bill Walton had a series of foot injuries during his seasons with the team.

Some call that a curse, but other teams call it a day in the life of an NBA team.

Ask Lakers fans about James Worthy breaking his leg just before the start of the 1983 NBA playoffs, probably costing the Lakers an NBA title. Or ask them about Byron Scott and Magic Johnson both suffering torn hamstrings during the 1989 NBA Finals, with Scott hurting his before Game 1 and Johnson during Game 2. The Lakers were swept in that series. Or Magic retiring after testing positive for HIV. Does anyone say the Lakers are cursed? No, because the Lakers officials have a history of making wise draft picks and trades, leaving the team in position to recover quickly from setbacks.

The problem for the Clippers is that serious injuries seem to get magnified for a team that has lacked a tradition of success and hasn't built the kind of roster that could deal with adversity.

In 1981, they drafted Tom Chambers, who went on to have a solid career ... with Seattle and Phoenix. After he averaged 17.4 points for the Clippers, they traded him to the SuperSonics for James Donaldson, Greg Kelser and Mark Radford. To be fair, the Clippers did draft a future Hall of Famer in 1981: Tony Gwynn, who is in the Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1983, the Clippers selected Byron Scott, then traded him to the Lakers. In 1984, they selected Lancaster Gordon with the eighth overall pick of the draft. Lancaster Gordon? Meanwhile, eight picks later, the Utah Jazz selected John Stockton. In 1985, with the third pick in the draft and with Chris Mullin, Detlef Schrempf, Charles Oakley, Karl Malone and Joe Dumars all available, the Clippers selected, wait for it, Benoit Benjamin. (By the way, that year the Lakers selected A.C. Green with the 23rd pick.)

The NBA draft is always a gamble, but in 1987, the Clippers had three first-round picks. They went with Reggie Williams, Joe Wolf and Ken Norman. So, no, there is no Clippers Curse. There have been unfortunate player personnel decisions made by the team. Which seems to have changed this season under new General Manager Neil Olshey. Who is probably busily trying to fill the hole Billups' injury leaves.

houston.mitchell@latimes.com

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