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Trade Manning, Move Team and Clippers Will Be Ducky

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When we left the Clippers last spring, everything was peachy. They finally had made the playoffs, finally had the right coach (Larry Brown), finally had a player (Danny Manning) who could take them to the next level and finally had a blueprint for a new arena, to be built either in the neighborhood or in beautiful downtown Burbank.

They weren’t the “same old Clippers” any more.

They weren’t unlucky.

They weren’t unhappy.

Just a couple of months ago, I was thinking that this was an organization that had finally gotten organized.

And now?

Now I think the time has come to give some advice to my old pal Donald Sterling that he does not particularly want to hear. I think, as owner of the Clippers, the time has come for Sterling to seriously consider getting rid of his greatest player and to move the entire franchise lock, stock and jockstraps to beautiful downtown Anaheim.

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Because if ever a team needs another fresh start, it is this one.

Manning wants out? Fine. There’s the door. He wants the Clippers to wait until he is an unrestricted free agent and risk getting zero for their investment? Bull you-know-what. He wants this to be all business? Fine. Sell him like a stock. The market’s bullish for forwards. Here is the phone number of the Houston Rockets: (713) 627-0600. Offer them any four Clippers for Hakeem Olajuwon. Hakeem and any four remaining Clippers will do fine. Here is the number of the Dallas Mavericks: (214) 748-1808. Ask for Jim Jackson and a draft choice. Better still, find out where Manning wants most not to play, then trade him there. Why reward him?

Manning isn’t happy playing for the Clippers, any more than Charles Smith was, any more than Benoit Benjamin was, any more than Derek Smith was, any more than Danny Ferry would have been. This is why the Clippers continue to have difficulty drawing new customers, or hanging onto old ones--because if their own players don’t seem very thrilled about having to be there, why should the fans?

In Orange County, however, these same players will be as welcome as returning soldiers.

The Anaheim Arena is up. All Donald Sterling has to do is rub Michael Eisner’s magic lamp and, poof, Robin Williams will personally see to it that Disney’s new hockey team has some company. Anaheim will embrace both teams, Donald’s and the Ducks, no questions asked.

It will be years before a new Los Angeles arena is ready. It will take money and time. And after all that trouble, will luxury boxes and season tickets be gobbled up for a team that plays at King and Figueroa, or alongside the Convention Center?

As for Burbank, as perfect as that might otherwise be, there has not been much progress in approving construction of a new arena. There has even been concern over toxic-waste removal that reportedly is required at the proposed site.

Jokers will say that Los Angeles giving the Clippers to Burbank would qualify as toxic-waste removal.

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Not I.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Clippers, who keep chugging along and chugging along like that little train in the children’s books. Except, the Clipper locomotive seems to keep saying: “I think we can’t. I think we can’t.”

It is my strong impression that Donald Sterling, with homes in Malibu and Beverly Hills, is reluctant to move his very own basketball team to a place where it might take him 90 minutes to two hours simply to get to his seat.

A strange rumor that surfaced recently was that the Lakers, not the Clippers, would be the ones to blow town and share an arena with the Disney hockey team. I guess they would take to one another like Ducks take to Lakers.

I wonder what would happen then. I wonder if Hollywood celebrities would hang out with the basketball team that was more successful or with the basketball team that was more convenient. The Lakers certainly have every right to move to Anaheim; at the moment, I’m simply not sure why they would feel the need to move there.

It suddenly occurs to me that a scenario we could be looking at is the Lakers playing in Anaheim and the Clippers moving to the Forum.

I don’t know what is happening backstage. What makes player after player so unhappy? Sterling and Elgin Baylor? The pay? The losing? The location? Now Manning can’t even enjoy playing for his college coach. And Brown cannot demand loyalty when he, himself, has roamed from place to place, as Manning’s agent hastens to point out.

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So, once again, what we have here is one big unhappy family. That’s the Los Angeles Clippers, America’s dysfunctional basketball team. Let’s turn them into the Anaheim Clippers and start fresh for the third time.

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