Basketball is not normally a game for the roly-poly, but the Clippers are not a normal basketball team.
They lose an abnormal number of games, for instance, a team character trait that has stood the test of time. And funny things happen to the Clippers.
For instance, a month ago they noticed that their center and their point guard seemed to be gaining weight. Benoit Benjamin and Quintin Dailey, the team’s co-captains, were putting on pounds despite the grueling nature of the sport and the draining grind of the National Basketball Assn. schedule.
Ben and Q were starting to look like Tweedledum and Tweedledee of “Through the Looking Glass.” The Clippers were giving new meaning to the terms expansion team and rounding into midseason form.
Dailey, in particular, confounded modern medical science by putting on about 36 pounds after training camp, and it wasn’t from steroids. So the Clippers suspended their leading scorer--at 17 points a game--which angered and embarrassed him.
Now we skip ahead to the present. Dailey has slimmed down again, using his revolutionary Woody Woodpecker diet. Benjamin has slimmed down, too. And as this is written, the Clippers are riding a two-game winning streak and are drawing raves around the league for their improved play and spirit.
“I gotta own up to it, it did get a little out of hand,” says Dailey, the team’s most creative offensive player.
Not that Dailey thinks he is playing any better in his lower-profile body.
“Not really,” he says. “I do the same things on the court. People say I look better, that’s great, but (before the suspension) I was playing my best ball of the last three or four years.”
Coach Don Casey begs to differ.
“He has more spring in his jump shot now,” Casey says. “We can see it from the sidelines. We showed him tapes. He was stumbling around out there, compared to what he’s doing now.”
What America wants to know, though, is: a) How Dailey managed to gain 36 pounds during an NBA season, and b) How he lost 19 pounds in one week to earn reinstatement to the Clipper roster.
The gaining was easy, Quintin says.
“You can run 24 minutes and be casual,” Dailey says, casually.
He explains that he’s not talking about dogging or loafing, but rather playing intelligent, energy-conserving basketball.
While he was conserving energy, Dailey was eating constantly. To his credit, though, not once did he order a snack delivered to the bench during a game, as he once did when he played for the Chicago Bulls.
“Munch here, munch there,” explains the Clippers’ munchkin.
Dailey was limiting himself to one meal a day, but it lasted 18 hours. The Clippers suspended him when he weighed in before a Feb. 6 game at 229. Dailey says he was fully dressed, wearing a heavy coat, and that his true weight was more like 225, which is still a load for a 6-3 guard who came to camp at 193 pounds.
Whatever his weight, he was out of a job until he lost some. The suspension was big news. Dailey would be walking through a mall and total strangers would call out to him, “Hey, Quintin, you stay away from the cookie store, now.”
Dailey, who doesn’t eat sweets, did a slow burn, but went to work. He hooked onto a popular diet plan and started working out twice a day.
“I’m compulsive in a lot of ways,” says Dailey, who in the past underwent rehabilitation for cocaine addiction. “I got an addicting attitude. I’m addicted to working out now. I realize my strengths and weaknesses. Drugs and food are my weaknesses, so I think of other things.
“I don’t battle (hunger). If you make it a battle, it’s hard. I don’t make it a battle because it beat me. . . . Now I take it one day at a time. It’s almost like dealing with my drug addiction.
“I watch cartoons to keep my mind off food. Woody Woodpecker is my favorite, because he’s a pain in the . . . . He likes to antagonize people.”
Now the people Dailey antagonizes are on the opposing teams.
And he’s getting help from Benjamin, who, in the Wednesday morning shoot-around, was looking remarkably slim, for Ben. One source says Benoit has dropped about seven pounds in the last week.
The loss is partially attributable to two of Casey’s innovations--a nutritional diet drink given to all the players before workouts, and a new shoot-around drill known as running up and down the court and breathing hard and sweating a lot.
Who knows, maybe Benoit, four seasons into his pro career, is finally getting serious about this game.
Then again, these are the Crazy Clippers and you’re tempted to wait another week or two before declaring this the new NBA dynasty.