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Red Carpet Rolled Out for Manning

Times Staff Writer

Danny Manning got the star treatment from the Clippers Wednesday.

The Clippers, who had the worst record in the National Basketball Assn. this season, gained the rights to Manning--college basketball’s best player--by winning the NBA draft lottery last Saturday in New York.

Manning, a 6-foot 9-inch, 230-pound forward who led Kansas to the 1988 National Collegiate Athletic Assn. title, was attending the U.S. Olympic basketball trials in Colorado Springs when the lottery results were announced. At that time, he didn’t make himself available for comment.

The Clippers, however, pulled out the stops to welcome Manning aboard.

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A white limousine met Manning, his father, Ed, and agent Ron Grinker at the airport and took them to the Sports Arena for a press conference.

Even Mayor Tom Bradley dropped by to welcome Manning to Los Angeles.

The Clippers, who said they have sold more than 600 season tickets since gaining the rights to Manning, are hoping to use him as a marketing tool. They plan to put his picture on billboards all over town.

Manning, standing before a battery of TV cameras and microphones, said all the right things at what may have been the most heavily attended media event in club history.

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“I don’t want to come in here and say that I’ll completely turn the team around next year,” Manning said. “The future is bright, but one person can’t turn a team around. It’s going to be hard, but with the talent the Clippers have I think we can be competitive.

“I think a lot of pressure comes from within. I try to live up to my own expectations because when you live up to other people’s expectations you always fall short.”

Said Grinker: “I think it will be safe to say that he’ll be the highest-paid player of all time. “My goal is that Danny Manning will make a commitment to Los Angeles for his entire career. Danny Manning is Magic Johnson without the Magic.”

Manning, who said his primary concern is playing in the Olympics, said he doesn’t plan to get involved in contract negotiations.

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“You can ask for as much as you want, but they’re only going to give you what they want,” Manning said. “I want it to be done as quickly as possible. I don’t want anything to distract from the Olympics.”

Asked if he feels he’s worth $35 million, Manning said: “If I get it, then I’m worth it.”

Grinker had said that he hopes to work out a deal with the Clippers before the June 28 draft. However, NBA rules forbid a team from negotiating or signing a player until after the draft.

Clipper President Alan Rothenberg said he got a call from NBA Commissioner David Stern, who was concerned because he heard a report on a TV station that the Clippers planned to sign Manning before the draft.

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“It could be a long time before we crack this one,” Rothenberg said. “But the most important thing is that Danny Manning is going to sign. I can’t say when we’ll get it done because he’s going to be involved with the Olympics from July 10, when he reports to camp, until the Closing Ceremony in October.”

Clipper General Counsel Arn Tellem, who will lead the club’s negotiating team, said that the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, which goes into effect July 1, may determine how much money the club will be able to offer Manning.

“Hopefully, we would like to sign him to a multi-year deal,” Tellem said. “We’re going to sign him no matter what.”


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