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Clippers Can’t Seem to Land Nixon or a Victory : Snags in Contract Language Delay Signing; Portland Extends Tailspin to Eight

Times Staff Writer

Another day passed, and Norm Nixon still hadn’t signed his contract and joined the Clippers. That, coupled with the club’s eighth straight loss Thursday night, figured to leave everyone on the Clippers with the usual dour expressions.

But the Clippers, from owner Donald T. Sterling and General Manager Carl Scheer to the players themselves, were far from gloomy, even though they had found another way to continue their embarrassing losing streak.

Not only did the Clippers push the Portland Trail Blazers to the limit before dropping a 112-108 decision in front of 6,766 fans at the Sports Arena, they were also told that Nixon’s representatives had finally approved the wording of his contract, leaving it ready for Nixon’s signature.

That might happen as soon as today, although agent Tom Collins said there are still issues to be resolved. But Fred Slaughter, another of Nixon’s agents, said Nixon will be back.

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“It’s Norm’s call now,” Slaughter said. “As soon as we can catch up with Norm, we’ll ask him to sign it. But we’re having trouble finding him now. Thank God, this is almost over.”

Clipper Coach Don Chaney, wary about previous premature reports of Nixon’s return, was cautiously optimistic.

“Good,” he said. “After the way this game ended, that’s a positive thing to look to.”

Chaney may have been happy about the latest on Nixon, but he wasn’t as encouraged as others about the Clippers’ play against the Trail Blazers, who had lost four straight coming into the game. To Chaney, merely playing well isn’t enough if you don’t win.

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“That’s the same old story with the Clippers,” Chaney said. “We always fight back. I’d like to sit back and relax once in a while.”

Instead, Chaney paced the sidelines in the fourth quarter as the Clippers eventually came all the way back from a 10-point deficit. The Clippers took a 108-105 lead with 1:10 left, but then Portland took advantage of Los Angeles mistakes to pull out the win.

Kenny Carr converted an offensive rebound over Michael Cage into a three-point play with 18 seconds left to put the Trail Blazers ahead, 110-108. After Marques Johnson missed a baseline hook shot, Portland’s Jim Paxson grabbed the rebound and flung a pass to Darnell Valentine for a game-clinching layup.

Even though Johnson missed a shot that could possibly have sent the game into overtime, he still had another excellent offensive game. Johnson scored 27 points, hitting 11 of 20 shots, while Rory White added 18. Portland put its five starters in double figures, Kiki Vandeweghe leading with 23 points. While Chaney and Clippers mulled over what might have been, Sterling made this proclamation as he headed into the locker room: “I’m a positive person, and I’m positive Norm will be here Saturday. That’s what I’m told.” However, Sterling was in a funk before the game because he expected to see Nixon in the lineup Thursday night. Naturally, he was disappointed when it didn’t materialize.

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“Donald asked me about Norm when he came in,” Scheer said. “I said, ‘Norm Who?’ And then Sterling said, ‘Oh.’ ”

Improper language in the loan agreement between Nixon and the Clippers was primarily resonsible for the delay in the signing.

By halftime Thursday night, though, the Clippers and Nixon’s lawyers finally had agreed on the wording of the loan agreement. Arn Tellem, the Clippers’ legal counsel, said he signed the contract for the Clippers.

“It’s up to them now,” Tellem said. “Nixon’s lawyers and I agreed to everything in the contract. Now, I guess they want to check it out with the league and the players’ association, but I know they won’t find anything wrong with it.”

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Collins has made it clear that he will make the Clippers wait perhaps even longer than today. He said he wants the contract sent to Larry Fleisher, head of the players’ union, for approval. Also, Collins said the Clippers will have to pay Nixon $50,000 he was owed from his previous agreement.

“He obviously won’t be there (Thursday) or Saturday night (against Milwaukee),” Collins said early Thursday. “We still haven’t gotten any pure documents. There was a lot of improper language in the ones we have now. The kid (Nixon) just won’t play until he gets what he deserves.”

Scheer called Collins’ claim that the Clippers owe Nixon money “fictitious.” Scheer also said Collins is using “stall tactics.”

This much is certain, though: Both sides are running out of ploys and, eventually, the Nixon fiasco will end.”

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“I hope so,” Scheer said.

Clipper Notes

An Orange County group, other than the one that is building the Westdome Arena in Santa Ana, has spoken to Clipper officials in an attempt to to buy the Clippers. Alan Rothenberg, president of the Clippers, said the team is not for sale and that owner Donald T. Sterling will not even consider selling it. Rothenberg said an Orange County businessman named Chris Racine approached him recently and made the offer. “He’s been bugging me, on and off, for a while,” Rothenberg said. “I told the guy no and I didn’t even bother to check him out because we aren’t interested.” Rothenberg also said officials from the Westdome have made offers to buy the Clippers once the arena is built in 1987. “We simply aren’t selling to anyone,” Rothenberg said. . . . In a matter that General Manager Carl Scheer says is unrelated to the pending signing of Norm Nixon, the Clippers are trying to trade center James Donaldson. Scheer has had discussions with Dallas, New Jersey and other teams and he calls negotiations “on-going.” Scheer also said he’s talking to teams about trading other players.


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