Ennis Whatley, who was averaging about 45 minutes a game for Wichita Falls, Tex., when the Clippers plucked him from the Continental Basketball Assn. on a 10-day contract, was not tired. Just surprised.
“Very surprised,” said Whately, who was brought in to help at the guard position. “Thankful, though.”
The Clippers are, too, after Whatley came off the bench to play the final 17:33 of the game and contribute eight points--including two free throws to tie the score at 108-108--and four assists in a 116-112 victory over the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night before 9,721 fans at the Sports Arena.
Ken Norman scored six of the final eight points for the Clippers, who have won three of their last five games. The two losses were by six and three points, respectively.
The addition of Whatley, who is with his sixth National Basketball Assn. team in a five-year pro career, has already brought a new element to an act that was getting older by the game. History says he can’t sustain it, but the Clippers have already squeezed something from him, even after only two days of practice.
“He adds juice that we need,” Coach Don Casey said. “He’s a little hungry kid coming in. You’ve got to be happy for him, and it’s a little zip into our systems.
“Maybe he doesn’t know all the plays, but he did well. He and Gary (Grant, the starter at point guard) will be a good complement, and I think Tommy Garrick looks better at shooting guard. So now we have a good rotation.”
The Clippers also have good feelings again after breaking a two-game losing streak, and winning for only the fourth time in 47 outings when behind after three quarters.
The Clippers (14-51) had four players each score 20 points or more--Benoit Benjamin (23, and 12 rebounds), Norman (21) and Charles Smith and Quintin Dailey (20 each). They shot 55.7%, the team’s best percentage since a Dec. 8 victory over Houston at the Sports Arena.
Things have been going the Clippers’ way on the schedule, if nowhere else. After playing--and losing to--the expansion teams last week, Dallas came to town with a seven-game losing streak, which included a 14-point quarter in each of the last two games.
The Mavericks, who averaged 93.5 points during the streak, looked the part at the outset, falling behind, 49-40, with 6:30 to play in the first half. But against a team it had beaten 13 straight times coming in, Dallas closed the gap at 55-55.
The Mavericks took the lead on their next possession, which ended in a Derek Harper layup with 2:34 left in the second quarter. Harper, who shot 38.5% in the first four games of the trip, made two more baskets, one a three-pointer, to help put Dallas ahead, 64-60, at halftime.
Teammates have been giving Clipper forward Rob Lock, a 1988 Kentucky graduate, a bad time about his ties to the Wildcats, a program being investigated by the National Collegiate Athletic Assn. “They ask me what I signed for to go to college. They ask me if I had to take a pay cut to play in the pros,” Lock said. “To tell you the truth, at first it was funny. But now, it’s to the point where it is embarrassing. We go on the road, and I hear it from fans, too. We were introduced before the game in Detroit, and the announcer said, ‘Rob Lock, a rookie from Kentucky,’ it was like the crowd went, ‘Ooooooh.” Lock said he spoke to NCAA investigators twice during his sophomore year, after a newspaper series showed widespread corruption in the program, but when they wanted to talk to him last April he declined. “I was through with my college career, so they couldn’t make me,” he said. “I would just have told them I never got anything to play there, which is the truth. I wasn’t good enough in high school to get any offers.”