Clippers Can Only Cut Losses

I went to a Clipper injury one night and somebody played basketball. This poor team has been down on its luck.

But now that they have gotten rid of Annoyed Benjamin, I love our crazy L.A. Clippers more than ever. Benjamin is the sort of basketball player who is best appreciated like Julie Gold's Grammy award-winning song: From a distance.

The Clippers finally parted company with Annoyed Benjamin this week, sticking the Seattle SuperSonics with him. In return, Los Angeles received two juicy draft choices and a journeyman center, Olden Polynice, whose name sounds like something out of Charles Dickens. Truth is, the Clippers would have gotten the best of this deal even had Seattle sent them not Olden Polynice but old polyester.

You've heard of the Sonic boom? Benjamin will be the Sonic bust. I would hate to insinuate that Benoit was a big baby, but I hear his manager, Don King, already is promoting his client's upcoming engagement as the Rattle in Seattle.

Well, he's gone now, and there is nothing we can do about it, except maybe buy more Clipper tickets. This leaves only one bit of remaining business for the Clippers; namely, to get rid of their other big baby, Gary Grant, who, after taking the Clippers nowhere, asked them to send him elsewhere. We haven't been able to fall asleep for minutes worrying about poor Gary. If the Clippers had two points for every time reckless Gary Grant led them on a fast break, they would be a couple of games behind Portland in the standings. Magic Johnson in ski boots could get two points more dependably than Grant on his greatest day. Magic goes after a basket the way a ninja mutant turtle goes after a pizza. Grant is so busy being fancy with the basketball, he forgets to get it into the hoop. Then he goes around wondering what's wrong with the Clippers. Somebody get him a mirror.

Things would be so much better for the Clippers had Ron Harper been more fit for duty or Bo Kimble been less of a disappointment. Be thankful for Charles Smith and Ken Norman. So often are Smith and Norman the only Clippers who show up to play, they ought to be promoted in advertisements as the stars of "Home Alone."

The big headache, of course, has always been Benjamin, who is not nearly as bad as everybody makes him out to be but not nearly as good as he makes himself out to be. Speaking for many of the disciples of Clipperdom, I can safely say that we had had enough of watching Benjamin's somnambulism night after night. The time has come to try somebody new-- anybody --new. Even somebody Olden.

Benjamin had the Clippers over a barrel. He was threatening to take a hike on them--a team player to the very end--because, in a league with 15 or 20 average teams and few above-average centers, Annoyed started figuring that he should make as much money as one of the Ewings, Patrick or J.R. Should anybody be wondering who planted this idea in Benjamin's head, here's a hint: His hair sticks straight up, like the Bride of Frankenstein, Vanilla Ice and Buckwheat.

General Manager Elgin Baylor made the best deal he could make, cutting his losses. Undoubtedly it pained him to give up on Benjamin after all the time and meal money that was invested in him. But Baylor has never been afraid to say bye-bye to anybody, be it Michael Cage or Derek Smith, so when his hand was forced, Elgin dealt. I like what he did.

The strange thing about the Clippers is, I like almost every move these guys make. Most of their draft choices made perfect sense at the time--even Benjamin and Grant when they got them. I also have admired most of their musical-chair coaches. And as for their whopper of a trade, Danny Ferry and Reggie Williams for Harper, I still give it thumbs-up. Most of the Clippers' unfortunate moves were made in San Diego--including the one they made from San Diego.

Nevertheless, the Clippers keep going nowhere, like exercise freaks walking a Stairmaster. Year after year, Troop Beverly Hills den master Donald T. Sterling throws wonderfully lavish garden parties at which another new season is christened with champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Glasses usually are raised in a toast to "our last lottery" and to the notion that the Clippers are duty-bound for the playoffs. Wishful drinking.

While the playoffs are beyond neither the fantasies nor reach of the Clippers, they still could end up playing a whole lotta lotto. But at least they're trying. The Benjamin trade is one of those trades that helps both teams--the Clippers at home and the Clippers on the road.

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