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NBA Draft Holds Little for the Lakers, Clippers

Times Staff Writer

The Lakers enter today’s college draft looking, as usual, for a big man. But, also as usual, they have no guarantee that the one they want will be around when they pick 23rd in the first round.

This may not be the best situation for the Lakers, but it’s still a lot better than the Clippers, who won’t get to draft until the third round, the 54th pick.

Laker General Manager Jerry West said he tried to negotiate a trade so that the Lakers could move up in the draft and find a player who would provide immediate help, but it didn’t work out.

“We were never close,” West said.

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“The bottom line now is we have to feel we can find a player who could conceivably help in a year or two,” he said. “Last year, drafting in the same place, we got a player (A. C. Green) who helped immediately.

“With the expectation level of our team, that’s the scary thing,” West said. “It’s unrealistic to feel that way down there, where we are, that we can come up with that type of player again.”

Until the last few days, West was hoping that 6-foot 8-inch Louisville forward Billy Thompson would still be available when it was the Lakers’ turn to draft, but it seems now that Thompson will already be gone before the Lakers get to him.

The Utah Jazz, picking 15th, as well as the No. 19 Atlanta Hawks and the No. 22 Milwaukee Bucks have all expressed at least mild interest in Thompson.

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Another player who has caught the Lakers’ eye is 6-8 Alabama forward Buck Johnson, but once again Atlanta and also No. 21 Philadelphia 76ers have noticed him, too.

Where does that put the Lakers? Probably rolling the dice, as usual.

“The draft is a huge gamble,” West said. “You try to put things together, then you just hope. You’re simply always looking for big people, but so is everyone else.”

If Thompson, Johnson and 6-6 shooting guard Anthony Jones of Nevada Las Vegas are gone, the Lakers could wind up choosing someone such as 6-1 guard Scott Skiles of Michigan State.

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There is also the possibility that the Lakers could gamble, hugely, on the largest player in the draft, 6-11, 310-pound center Kevin Duckworth of Eastern Illinois.

Because every team in the league except the Clippers and Seattle SuperSonics will draft ahead of the Lakers, West is not certain who will be available when the Lakers finally pick.

“There’s really no clue,” he said.

The Clippers are even more in the dark. Elgin Baylor, their new director of basketball operations, said he is looking for a backup center for Benoit Benjamin. But without a draft choice in either the first or second round, Baylor can’t be sure of whom the Clippers will select.

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“That’s our priority,” Baylor said. “A backup center or perhaps a small forward. We’re looking for someone to help out Benoit Benjamin. He’s our future and we’re building our team around him.”

The Clippers also listened to trade offers to move up in the draft, the most interesting ones involving 6-10 veteran Kurt Nimphius, but apparently the best the Clippers could have received was a second-round choice, so Baylor said no.

The Clippers would have had two first-round picks today but don’t because they traded both of them away.

Philadelphia has the Clippers own first-round pick, the No. 1 pick in the draft, from a 1979 trade for Joe (Jellybean) Bryant. The Clippers took the Boston Celtics’ own No. 1, the 24th pick, in the Cedric Maxwell trade, but the Portland Trail Blazers got it in a trade last season for guard Darnell Valentine. The Clippers’ second-round draft choice went to Atlanta in a 1983 trade for Kevin Figaro.

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That leaves the Clippers at No. 54, the seventh pick in the third round.

“We’re going to have to make do,” Baylor said. “I could make a trade and move up a little, but we need immediate help. If I wanted to move Benoit, I could move up to the top of the list, but I don’t.”

The Lakers do not have a second-round choice, either. Actually, the San Diego Clippers had it first, in 1983 when the Lakers acquired Byron Scott for Norm Nixon, but the Clippers sent it to Detroit for Ricky Pierce, and then the Pistons traded it to the Phoenix Suns for David Thirdkill.

There is still a chance that the Lakers might swing a deal today, possibly involving Scott, and maybe Steve Stipanovich of the Indiana Pacers, but the way things were going around the league Monday, there isn’t any guarantee that the Pacers will draft a center to free Stipanovich.

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Boston will pick second, behind Philadelphia, which is said to want 7-0 Brad Daugherty of North Carolina. The Celtics are supposed to be leaning toward 6-8 forward Len Bias of Maryland, but 7-0 center William Bedford of Memphis State still seems to be a possibility since both Robert Parish and Bill Walton are 33 years old.

Golden State has the third pick and the Warriors might be more interested in Bias, if he’s there, than in 6-11 Chris Washburn. The selection also depends on what new Coach George Karl decides to do with his veteran center, Joe Barry Carroll, who is once again the subject of trade rumors.

Picking next, Indiana could wind up with either Bias, Washburn, Bedford or 6-8 Chuck Person of Auburn, who is reportedly at the center of a tug of war in the front office of the New York Knicks, who have the No. 5 selection.

New personnel director Scotty Stirling is believed to want Person, but Coach Hubie Brown reportedly favors 6-8 forward Kenny Walker of Kentucky.

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Phoenix at No. 6 seems set with 6-6 guard Ron Harper of Miami of Ohio, and although Dallas is talking about 6-10 forward-center Roy Tarpley of Michigan, many believe that the Mavericks will eventually decide on 6-8 forward Walter Berry of St. John’s.

Tarpley and two other legitimate big men--7-0 Brad Sellers of Ohio State and 7-0 John Salley of Georgia Tech--are expected to be gone after Utah picks 15th. Greg Dreiling, a 7-0 center from Kansas, should also be gone, maybe to No. 22 Milwaukee, before the Lakers select.

There is considerable interest in Atlanta’s choice with the No. 19 pick. The Hawks want a shooting guard, but they could also select from the ranks of Johnson, Thompson or 6-7 Harold Pressley of Villanova.

Houston, which follows Atlanta, could have one of the bigger surprises if the Rockets select 6-0 guard Mark Price of Georgia Tech, a possibility being rumored.

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If all else fails, the Lakers might be left with Pressley, 6-10 forward Ken Barlow of Notre Dame, Dennis Rodman of Southeast Oklahoma State, a 6-8 forward who was the small college player of the year, or possibly 6-5 guard Ron Rowan of St. John’s.

Draft Notes

Among the trade rumors circulating Monday was one that would send Golden State center Joe Barry Carroll to the Dallas Mavericks for forward Mark Aguirre and future considerations. Carroll was once again mentioned as part of a deal with Milwaukee. . . . The Warriors are expected to announce this week that new coach George Karl has added former Spur Coach Morris McHone as his assistant and 76er aide Jack McMahon as director of player personnel. In the meantime, former coach and general manager Al Attles still has a title with the Warriors, but he has no office in the Oakland Coliseum Arena. . . . Former Trail Blazer Coach Jack Ramsay has put his Portland home on the market and is moving to the Jersey shore, where he has a diet franchise business. . . . Are the Utah Jazz going to trade Adrian Dantley? Here is a story Frank Layden told a group in Salt Lake City: “I died and went to heaven and St. Peter asked me if I’d coach the Heavenly All-Stars. I said sure. Then when I went to practice, I saw a guy wearing No. 4. He made a spin move and banked the ball in off the glass. I asked St. Peter, ‘Hey, is that Adrian Dantley?’ St. Peter said, ‘No, that’s God. He just thinks he’s Adrian Dantley.’ ”


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