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Trade Winds Blow Clippers to Victory : Pro basketball: A deal for Timberwolves’ Richardson is still rumored as L.A. sails past Minnesota, 100-87.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The scheduling quirk was that the Clippers came all the way here for a one-game trip. The coincidence was that it would be as trade talks with the Minnesota Timberwolves continue.

In the Clippers’ 100-87 victory Saturday night at the Target Center, their third victory away from the Sports Arena in four tries, Loy Vaught had a game-high 11 rebounds in only 23 minutes and Gary Grant again replaced injured Doc Rivers in commendable fashion.

So guess who is at the forefront of the rumors that would send Pooh Richardson to the Clippers?

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Grant, who has been through this before, shrugged at the timing of the visit here and said he didn’t think about it. Vaught shrugged, too, but he couldn’t help but wonder.

“I did kind of feel I was on display a little bit,” he acknowledged after getting seven offensive rebounds.

“I did feel that way, to be honest. But it was not so big a deal that it distracted me. I just wanted to play my normal game and hit the boards.”

Vaught’s conclusion after getting double-figure rebounds for the second time in three outings?

“I think I’m outta here,” he said.

Then he surveyed the locker room.

“It’s bottle-necked up around here. I think they want to make a move.”

Clipper management, which makes no comment on trade rumors, would not be happy to hear that. Coach Mike Schuler went so far as to address the issue with his players for the first time in four years as an NBA head coach at practice Friday, hoping to get everyone’s mind off what might or might not happen.

“I dealt with individuals a year ago,” Schuler said. “I had a couple of conversations with Danny Manning a year ago in one-on-one situations. Now there is more people involved. I wasn’t going to go one-on-one-on-one. I might as well do it all at once. One of the players came to me and said the guys were really concerned about this, so I addressed it.”

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For a group enjoying one of the best stretches in team history--the Clippers have won nine of 11 to improve to 15-12--it is unusual for trade rumors to be so prominent. But there they are, many involving point guards, an indication, perhaps, of continued concern over the durability of Rivers.

Within the last couple weeks alone, word has circulated of talks with Miami and Cleveland on a three-way deal for the Heat’s Sherman Douglas, of never-say-die interest in Dallas’ Derek Harper, of conversations with Milwaukee, and now the Timberwolves.

Vaught is held in high regard by several of those, and he is a perfect fit for a team such as Minnesota, which needs a power forward. He tries to take a business-like approach to hearing the rumors, waits, and plays through--all the while realizing that the return of Charles Smith means less playing time and that the forward position is back in its familiar over-populated state.

Saturday’s game was a testament to the Clippers’ depth, especially the performances off the bench by Grant, who made six of nine shots, and Vaught. Grant’s solid play reminded of the Dec. 6 game at Denver when he stepped in for flu-ridden Rivers and played a key role in another victory.

Clipper Notes

Doc Rivers, who sat out the previous game because of a sprained and bruised left ankle, made it as far as the first quarter Saturday before landing wrong and twisting it again. He left with 3:38 to go in the quarter and was on the bench in street clothes by the second half.

Bo Kimble, who sat out all of training camp and the start of the regular season because of a stress reaction in his left foot, played in his first game since April 3 and went one of two from the field in seven minutes. “I was real excited to play and I look forward to going home and playing a lot of minutes in front of the home crowd,” he said. “Conditioning-wise, this was not a real challenge because the tempo isn’t too quick with Minnesota.”

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Ron Harper played despite a sore and stiff right knee, the result of a slight hyper-extension during Wednesday’s game against Golden State. Harper was quick to note that the injury has nothing to do with his knee surgery from nearly two years ago.

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