Editor's note: ESPN.com senior NBA writer Marc Stein supplies each item for this weekly around-the-league notebook edition of the Dime.
SPECIAL WEEKEND EDITION
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Elton Brand, right, says the script has flipped, because lately Sam Cassell has been selling the Clippers to him.
Marc Stein talks with Clippers forward Elton Brand.
1. STEIN: Does it take anything away from the team's start when you keep hearing people ask: "Are the Clippers for real?"
2. STEIN: How hard was it for Sam Cassell to get over leaving Minnesota and Kevin Garnett?
BRAND: Sam wasn't happy when the trade first happened. But he turned around real quick. You hear all the rumors that he's tough to be around or whatever, but you can't believe what you hear or read. After coach Dunleavy talked to him and Cuttino [Mobley] talked to him and I started talking to him, it wasn't long before he was telling me how good we could be.
3. STEIN: What's different about this Clipper team and others you've played for that showed some promise?
BRAND: You have accountability now. In my early years here, we didn't have any veterans. We didn't have any guys who are supposed to know where to be and what to do.
4. STEIN: You've gone six seasons without making the playoffs. In spite of all your individual success, do you worry about how that drought affects your reputation?
BRAND: It's been difficult, but I've tried not to get too discouraged. I know you need a team to be successful. I look at the guys who were drafted around me, and other than Rip Hamilton and Shawn Marion, a lot of guys [at the top of the 1999 draft] haven't had a lot of playoff success. I'm a realist. And I'm 26. I'm still young, and I've always believed it would turn around somewhere, somehow.
5. STEIN: What about team chemistry? Will it hold up for a whole season?
BRAND: I think everybody's on the same page. What I always try to stress is that when you win, everyone gets accolades, you're looked at in a different light. If you're on a good team, that translates into notoriety for everybody.
1. I put it to the people: Is the most worthy name left off the All-Star ballot, in either conference, New Orleans rookie point guard Chris Paul? Sure looks like it to me. . . .2. My bad, Rockets. You can't weigh the feasibility of signing Latrell Sprewell, as suggested in a recent Weekend Dime, if Spree, as his agent states, is unwilling to play for the veteran minimum of $1.1 million. Houston still strikes me as the ideal destination for Spree, who gets glowing reviews to this day from Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy and with Van Gundy's team needing a boost even if Tracy McGrady heals. Problem is, Houston can't offer more than the minimum even if it wanted to. The Rockets are already carrying more than 15 guaranteed contracts and would have to manufacture a roster spot if mutual interest did develop. . . . 3. Denver has been tossed out as a possible destination for Portland's Ruben Patterson, but you can scratch the idea of the Nuggets parting with Eduardo Najera as part of a package for the disgruntled swingman. Nuggets coach George Karl is a big Najera fan who also needs Najera's energy in his frontcourt rotation more than ever with Nene out for the season and Kenyon Martin still recovering from off-season knee surgery.
About Houston's Yao Ming:
"He's playing better than you'd think listening to all the criticism out there. Fatigue is still an issue for him in the second half, and teams will always try to run him, but his conditioning gets a little better every year. He has really low body fat for his size.
The bigger problem with [Tracy] McGrady out is that defenses can really load up on Yao and no one else on that team takes any pressure off. He's used to that kind of attention from all those years playing for China, but in the NBA he's going against better players and [teams with] a better game plan to stop him."
"It feels disgusting, but I'd rather make a bucket or a pass than throw it out of bounds."
Suns guard Steve Nash, insisting that the ball would slip out of his hands if he didn't lick them several times a game.
How do you score 22 points in a single quarter against the mighty Spurs and then score only one point in the next three quarters? To Al Harrington's relief, that's now the only uncomfortable jab he still has to absorb regularly.The other one -- When are the Hawks finally going to win a game? -- was rendered obsolete Wednesday night when Harrington rumbled for 24 points in the first half and 10 more after intermission to help Atlanta to a 120-117 triumph over Boston, its first victory in 10 tries.