The Clips signed Simmons as a defensive stopper in 2003, and then he caught a break when they traded for Kerry Kittles and his bum knee last summer. When Kittles did his annual DL stint, Simmons had a starting job and a coach, Mike Dunleavy, who believed in him. He started making jumpers and Clips fans started bringing "WE LOVE BOBBY" signs to games. Just like that, he was worth $45-50 million.

Now he might be leaving Cali. He loved the guys on last year's team, thinks they're headed somewhere, thinks Shaun Livingston can be special. And he loves the fans. He absolutely doesn't want to move on. But he's not taking a discount to stay, either. Not after making $2.1 million total over the past four years. If the notoriously cheap Clippers lowball him -- which seems inevitable -- he'll look for a winner with deep pockets.

"Cut the check!" he giggled again.

I paid ours and we walked outside. The sun was shining -- another beautiful day in California. Bobby was heading home to wait by the phone. His whole life was about to change. Every drop of sweat was about to pay off.

"You sure you want to leave this?" I asked, waving a hand at the blue sky and the gorgeous women. "You could be freezing your butt off in Cleveland or Milwaukee next year."

"That's fine," he replied. "As long as somebody wants me, I don't really care where I go."

We shook hands. I thought about wishing him luck, but Bobby didn't need any more luck. He was cashing in. So instead, I said, "Congratulations."

"Thank you," Simmons said. "I appreciate it."

And with that, the Cut-the-Check Club adjourned for the summer.

Bill Simmons is a columnist for Page 2 and ESPN The Magazine. His Sports Guy's World site is updated every day Monday through Friday.



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