Wednesday , Jun , 30 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Clippers should keep Richardson

(Sports Network) – The Los Angeles Clippers have a tough decision to make in
the upcoming weeks, as guard Quentin Richardson is a restricted free agent and
he will most certainly be pursued by other teams in the league.

The 24-year-old Richardson is coming off the best season of his four-year
career. He averaged career-highs in points (17.2 ppg), rebounds (6.4 rpg) and
assists (2.1 apg) in 65 games for the Clippers, who finished a dismal 28-54 in
the regular season.

Richardson could receive a quick offer from an interested squad, as the
Clippers will most likely make a strong push for Los Angeles Lakers All-Star
guard Kobe Bryant, who is an unrestricted free agent. Players who are free
agents can begin talking to teams on June 1 and can start signing deals July

If a team can sign Richardson to an offer sheet, the Clippers will have 15
days to match and would then have to decide whether they want to put all of
their eggs in the Bryant basket or if they want to retain Richardson’s
services for what could be a very high price. The Clippers would be in a very
tough spot if a team can get Richardson to sign an offer sheet early, as the
Clippers could easily end up without Bryant or Richardson.

Denver will be one team that will lobby to sign Richardson. The Nuggets, who
made the playoffs for the first time since 1995, have a young and exciting
squad. Richardson would fit in well in a lineup that already consists of a
frontcourt of Marcus Camby, Nene and Carmelo Anthony and Andre Miller as the
point guard. If the money is right, Denver would be a very attractive
situation for Richardson.

Another team that could be interested in Richardson is San Antonio. Richardson
would add some needed athleticism to the Spurs’ roster. He would be a nice
complement to starting point guard Tony Parker and would also help out All-
Star Tim Duncan with the scoring load. Another key factor could be the fact
that the Spurs seem to be a fixture in the postseason, which is something
Richardson has never played in.

The Clippers also have some solid pieces to their puzzle already in place.
Twenty-five-year-old power forward Elton Brand averaged 20 points and a team-
high 10.3 rebounds last season, while 24-year-old swingman Corey Maggette led
the Clippers in scoring (20.7 ppg).

Brand, Maggette and Richardson give the Clippers a solid threesome. The
Clippers did draft high school phenom Shaun Livingston with the No. 4 pick in
the draft. Livingston is a 6-8 point guard, but it could be years before he is
ready to make an impact. Chris Kaman, who was the Clippers first-round pick in
the 2003 draft, is a 22-year-old center who is only going to get better.

Originally selected out of DePaul by the Clippers in the first round (18th
pick overall) of the 2000 NBA Draft, Richardson will be a hot commodity in the
offseason, and he will most likely be signed early by another team to a
lucrative multi-year contract, forcing the Clippers to make a tough decision.

According to the Rocky Mountain News, the Clippers will be about $14 million
under the salary cap, which would be enough to sign Bryant to a maximum
contract. However, if the Clippers decided to wait on Bryant, who can get the
most money from the Lakers, and don’t match an offer to Richardson from
another team they could end up with nothing but a big hole on their roster.

The Clippers should sign Richardson and continue to build with the young
nucleus that they have on their roster. Brand, Maggette and Richardson could
continue to flourish together in the years to come, and they would give
Clippers’ fans an exciting team to watch and a squad that they could be proud