Updated: Dec. 14, 2005, 1:38 PM ET

How Cassell Fits Clips

By Greg Anthony
ESPN Insider

Earlier this week, Los Angeles Clippers point guard Sam Cassell said of his former team, the Timberwolves, "There's no vendetta against Minnesota. I just don't like how it ended. There were differences there in the end. But they went on, and I'm going on. There are no hard feelings."

But if Cassell's not bitter, he is critical of the Wolves: "If I'm the GM, I'm not trading Marko Jaric for Sam Cassell. No way."

The part of his comments that resonates with me is the last part.

I don't think the Clippers' overtime win over the Wolves on Saturday and the 93-78 loss Monday night at Minnesota had a lot of special meaning to Sam. He might be disappointed about how he left the team, but Sam's been traded before, so he's used to that.

I think earlier in his career returning to Minnesota and trying to make a point might have meant a little bit more to Sam. When you're a younger player, you're trying to prove things to people.

Now I think what matters to Sam are the wins and losses.

As Sam said in the same interview, "We have a chance here [in Los Angeles] to do something special. Believe me, it's so much fun when you win."

One reason they can "do something special" is Sam.

I played with Sam, and played against him, and I know what a cagey veteran he is -- he just knows how to play.

For a team like the Clippers, he's exactly what the situation calls for. As Sam himself said, he's a better player than the man he replaced, Marko Jaric. He's much savvier, and he knows how to get, take and make big shots, which is hardly a specialty for Jaric.

Sam's so confident he thinks the Clippers are going to the playoffs, even though they haven't been there in nine seasons. And if Sam can stay healthy, they'll definitely have a chance.

The problem is, the Clippers' margin for error is a lot smaller than that of the other teams in the West.

The Clippers are exciting, and they can score.

But can they stop anybody? Cuttino Mobley isn't a strong defender, and Sam is slower afoot these days.

Furthermore, I'm just not sure they have the depth to hold off teams like Seattle and the Lakers for those final playoff spots in the West.

The Clippers have plenty going for them. Mike Dunleavy's done a great job of changing the tone with the team. Elton Brand remains a stalwart. Chris Kaman is pretty solid in the middle. Shaun Livingston will be a great player someday, and Sam will teach Livingston to be a better scorer.

Sam's as smart as any guard in the league. His decision-making and ability to compete and execute what the coach needs give the Clippers a chance in almost any game they play. His on-court leadership will make them competitive for a playoff spot. But unless everything plays out just right, I see them falling just short.

Talk back to the Daily Dime gang

Dimes Past: November 3 | 4 | 7

82-0? Forget it
AP Photo/Jim Mone
So Clippers rookie James Singleton got his mitts on this pass. Now getting by Kevin Garnett, center, is the hard part. Mark Madsen helps, too! The Wolves handed the Clippers their first loss, 93-78.

Mail Call: Power Rankings That Rankle

Here is a sample of reactions to Marc Stein's most recent power rankings:

"Can you please drop the Lakers 5 or 6 points on your rankings ... I like how they're playing and don't need you jinxing 'em. Also, please don't mention Lamar Odom."
-- Khaled (Kuwait City, Kuwait)

"How do the Celtics drop 2 spots by winning in OT, the Pistons needing a miracle to beat them, and losing in OT? They have a better record than Philly and Denver and the same record as Minny, Cleveland, Kings and Heat. The Heat without Shaq aren't 15 spots better."
-- Jack (Gorham, NH)

"While I'm a big fan of the Milwaukee Bucks and an eternal Wisconsin sports optimist, I fear that the high ranking may jinx them. ... But I'm just waiting for the ineveitable 2-8 skid that this young team is almost bound to take. I'm hoping they have enought veteran leadership in Redd and Kukoc to get them past the eventual slide."
-- Rob (Sheboygan, WI)

"Again the Grizz get no Love from the ESPN people. For the past 3 years ESPN has told me how bad the Grizz are going to be, and then never say anything when they are better than anyone gave them credit for. Let see they play Miami very close, tied with one minute left in the third quarter, for 3 quarters, beat up on the Magic in Orlando, then come home and the next day smack down LeBron and the Cavs. I am not saying they deserve to be number one in any rankings, but it would be nice if you even mention that they had a pretty good week."
-- Jonathan (Memphis)

"That's the lamest drop I've ever seen you make. You can't seriously tell me that teams like the Jazz, Lakers, Clippers, and Wiz are better than the Rockets just because T-Mac is out."
-- Nathan (Houston)

Marc Stein | Complete Week 1 Power Rankings

News and Notes

Is Dunleavy Feeling The Pressure?
"Mike Dunleavy said he's not pressing because of the expectations that accompany his five-year, $44 million contract, which he signed Oct. 31. Indeed, he said his new deal takes off some of the pressure because he has financial security and is with a team that wants him. It's all good right now. However, a couple other members of the organization said it looks as if Dunleavy is pressing." -- Contra Costa Times

Mo Can Relate To Andy
"As this sports-crazed city follows the daily trials of Eagles coach Andy Reid in his dealings with Terrell Owens, Maurice Cheeks can sit back and say wearily: Been there, done that. In his 3 1/2 years as coach of the Portland Trail Blazers, Cheeks had his share of problems with on- and off-the-court activities of his players." -- Philadelphia Inquirer

Lights Turned On For Harris
"Every good player in the NBA had a moment in his career when he finally "got it." Darrell Armstrong thinks Devin Harris' breakthrough came Saturday night, when the second-year point guard had 20 points in the fourth quarter. 'I wanted to see him have a bad first half and come back with a great second half. He finally did it. He came on strong,' Armstrong said Monday." -- Dallas Morning News

More NBA news

Miami Pound Machine
AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
Nets guard Vince Carter says "at least two guys hit me" on this final play. His last-second, game-winning bid was thwarted by Alonzo Mourning and Dwyane Wade, who said he got "all ball." The Heat won, 90-89.

Extreme Behavior

Monday's Best
Vince Carter, Nets guard Some classic Vince moves in the one-point loss at Miami. Made 14-21 FGs en route to 32 points. He gets next crack to beat the Heat on Dec. 23.


Monday's Worst
Sam Cassell, Clippers guard He stepped into Target Center declaring no hard feelings for his old team. Maybe some vitriol would have helped him in the Clips' first loss. Four turnovers, three assists, eh, nothing much.


Quote of the Night
"We want that same call at home if we're ever put in that position."
-- Nets guard Jason Kidd, after Dwyane Wade got to the line for the eventual winning free throw with 5.2 seconds left in Miami's 90-89 win.

Point Well Taken By Ford

T.J. Ford was named Monday as the Eastern Conference Player of the Week for his spectacular return to action as point guard of the 3-0 Bucks.

One of the most impressive facets of Ford's play has been his court sense, especially when one considers the long layoff.

Take the opener against Philadelphia, for instance. In Ford's first real competition in a year and a half, he was sharp enough to make one of the signature plays of the season's opening week.

With the Bucks needing a 3-pointer to tie in the final seconds, Ford had the epiphany that as a 20 percent career shooter, he was absolutely not the guy to take it. So when he found himself alone with the ball in the corner behind the line, he showed enough restraint to pass up the shot and keep dribbling until he found a far better shooter, Michael Redd, open behind the line. Redd nailed the shot, and the Bucks won in OT.

John Hollinger | More on T.J. Ford Insider

Elias Says

The Spurs won in overtime in Chicago 104-95. San Antonio has won its last seven road overtime games dating back to 2002, tying for the second-longest streak of that kind in NBA history. The last team with such a long streak was the Celtics, who won an NBA-record nine consecutive road overtime games between 1973 and 1976.

Elias Sports Bureau | More from Elias Insider

The Power Of Three

When the Lakers face the Hawks tonight in Atlanta, they will be led by a red-hot Kobe Bryant, whose first three games of the season rank him among the best point-scoring starts in Lakers history.

Hot Three-Game Starts
Player Pts. Year
Jerry West 120 1969-70
Elgin Baylor 113 1962-63
Elgin Baylor 112 1966-67
Kobe Bryant 109 2005-06

ESPN Research

Toronto Rapture

LeBron James returned Monday to Toronto, scene of his career-and franchise-record 56 points in a loss on March 20. "It was very special. It was an unbelievable night for myself. Even though we took a loss it was unbelievable," James said.

Asked who the better 3-point shooter on the team -- Donyell Marshall or himself -- James said with a smile: "Me. Just look at the stats. It's self-explanatory."

The Associated Press


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