The Clippers arrived at the crossroads Friday afternoon and took a wrong turn.
Next stop: Demotion junction.
It has come to that for the Clippers, once winners of 10 of 13, with Coach Larry Brown saying after the latest lackluster showing, a 103-94 loss to the San Antonio Spurs before 13,780 at the Sports Arena, that he is considering shaking up the lineup. Probably because shaking the players would be crossing the line.
"Yeah," Brown said when asked if he has any thoughts of a lineup change, "they're really there. Really there."
The Clippers have lost four of six--with unimpressive stretches during victories over Minnesota and Dallas in that span--and have Philadelphia (7-15) and Boston (12-13) remaining on the home stand. Against the Spurs (12-11), they needed all of one quarter to fall behind by 22 points, 39-17, another 2 1/2 minutes to make the deficit 43-18, and then battled back.
They trailed only 64-62 after John Williams' three-pointer with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter. But once there, the Clippers (14-11) went scoreless for the final 4:19 of the period.
"You're going to have bad shooting quarters," Brown said. "I can't fault the team for that at all. I was laughing at people behind me who were telling me to put in outside shooters. We were missing eight- to 10-footers."
They also had a missed three-point jumper by Mark Jackson after a timeout during the fourth quarter, which epitomized the Clippers' problem of bad decisions.
"We didn't even talk about a three-pointer in the timeout," Brown said.
"We're not playing as a team. That's the bottom line. We won last year because we made the extra pass and played good defense. We're not doing that now. . . . I've never seen shot selection like we had. (The Spurs) would penetrate the lane, and no one would come over to help (on defense).
"I'm not real comfortable with what I'm seeing. And I don't think they players should be."
They are not.
"All I can say is, I agree with that," Ken Norman said after getting 22 points and 13 rebounds despite a sprained left ankle that was so sore he didn't decide to play until about 45 minutes before tipoff. "In order for us to be a great team, we have to make sacrifices on offense and defense. I don't think we're doing that at this point."
It could have been much worse. San Antonio, which improved to 3-0 since firing Jerry Tarkanian as coach, made 12 of its first 14 shots and 16 of 23 (69.6%) by the end of the opening quarter. The 39-point quarter was the best for the Spurs this season and the most by a Clipper opponent.
"We executed extremely well," said David Robinson, who had 21 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out with 2:08 left. "We were passing so well. The ball would come into the post, and if I didn't have the shot, I would pass it back out. That's probably the smartest I've seen us play all year."
The Spurs finished at 49.3%, led by Sean Elliott's game-high 32 points on 11-of-14 shooting.
Talks between the Clippers and Detroit Pistons on a deal for Dennis Rodman have slowed, but are not over. The Clippers plan to continue to pursue Rodman, although they draw the line at parting with multiple players and draft choices, as Detroit is asking. They are far more comfortable with a package highlighted by Gary Grant and either Ken Norman or Loy Vaught, both of which are possible by renegotiating contracts to eliminate $280,000 from the Clipper salary cap. That could come from Rodman, who makes $2.2 million and has expressed a desire to leave Detroit.
Injury report: Stanley Roberts, found to have walking pneumonia after playing several games with what was thought to be a bad cold, went 15 minutes before fouling out. John Williams, bothered by flu, played 20 minutes. Antoine Carr returned for the Spurs after sitting out six games because of a dislocated shoulder.