Thursday , Dec , 02 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Are the Clippers for real?

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – The Los Angeles Clippers are 10-6 early
in the 2004-05 campaign. That is a fact!

The last time the Clippers had 10 wins this early into a season was in
1992-93, when they also won 10 of their first 16 contests.

On Wednesday, the Clippers won their fifth game in a row as they defeated the
Indiana Pacers, 88-76, at the Staples Center. Elton Brand led LA with a game-
high 27 points, while Corey Maggette, who returned to the lineup after missing
two games with an ankle injury, contributed 17 points and nine rebounds in the
victory.

“It wasn’t our best performance but any win is a good win,” said Clippers head
coach Mike Dunleavy. “I thought particularly in the second half, we played
much better. Give those guys (the Pacers) a lot of credit, they were so short-
handed, and they came out and played hard.”

Forward Bobby Simmons also had a solid performance for the Clippers, as he
ended with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in 39 minutes of action.
Simmons has scored in double-digits in 12 straight contests and is averaging
16.7 points and 6.3 boards per game in that span.

“I am very happy with myself and the way I am playing right no,” said Simmons.
“But collectively as a team I think we are doing a terrific job right now.
Winning is everything and fortunately when you win guys get their confidence
up.”

With the victory over Indiana, the Clippers have won five straight games for
the first time since the 1995-96 campaign. LA put a string of five wins in a
row together from November 10, 1995 to November 17, 1995.

“This is the longest winning streak since 1995 and we are looking to keep it
going,” said Brand. “We have been playing well, playing together and sharing
the basketball. We are playing unselfishly on defense also, making the extra
effort to help each other out.”

The Clippers are getting excellent production early on from Brand, point guard
Marko Jaric, Maggette, Simmons and forward Chris Wilcox.

Brand leads the team in scoring (19.2 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg), while
Jaric, who is averaging 12.2 points per contest, is LA’s top assist man at 6.3
per game. The high-flying Maggette has registered 18.4 points, which is second
on the team, and 5.3 boards per game for LA.

The 24-year-old Simmons has surprised everyone with his fantastic play and
production. Playing in his fourth season, Simmons, who averaged 7.8 points and
4.7 boards in 56 games for the Clippers in 2003-04, is averaging 16.6 points
and 6.1 rebounds. Simmons, who had started just 13 games in his career coming
into this season, has been in the starting lineup in all of LA’s first 16
contests.

Wilcox, who is playing in his third year in the league, has also surprised
with his play in the early going. Originally selected out of Maryland in the
first round (8th overall) of the 2002 NBA Draft by the Clippers, the 6-10
Wilcox has netted 13.1 points and grabbed 6.5 boards per game. In 2003-04, the
Maryland product finished the campaign with averages 8.6 points and 4.7
rebounds in 65 games.

LA is currently on a season-high seven-game homestand. The Clippers, who have
already picked up wins over the Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers and
Pacers on the stand, are scheduled to host the Minnesota Timberwolves,
Charlotte Bobcats, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics in the other contests
on the homestand.

The Clippers are taking their early success in stride. After all, the last
time this franchise finished a season with a .500 record was in 1992-93 when
they were 41-41. In 1991-92, the Clippers won 45 games during the regular
season, but lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Utah Jazz.

“Hey, we’re just playing them one at a time,” said Brand. “We got a big game
coming Saturday night (against Minnesota).”

Brand and Maggette are the real deal. They have posted solid numbers over the
course of an 82-game schedule during their careers. However, Jaric, Simmons
and Wilcox need to prove that they can produce consistently over the long
haul.

While playing at Duke, Brand and Maggette won a lot of games. In the NBA,
neither player has ever appeared in a postseason contest. In fact, Brand,
Jaric, Maggette, Simmons and Wilcox all have never participated in an NBA
playoff game.

It is going to be very interesting to see if the Clippers can hold up over the
long haul. They are a young team that is enjoying some early success.

Are the Clippers for real?

Time will tell!