Wilkins Doesn’t Disappoint, but Seattle Doesn’t Play Along : Clippers: He scores 34 points and makes spectacular shots in debut, but SuperSonics rally, 122-118.
Dominique Wilkins, nicknamed the Human Highlight Film, provided plenty of highlights in his Clipper debut.
Wilkins, acquired from the Atlanta Hawks Thursday for All-Star forward Danny Manning, scored 34 points, making 11 of 21 shots on a variety of acrobatic shots and dunks Sunday night against the Seattle SuperSonics at the Sports Arena.
However, the Wilkins era opened much as the Manning era ended, as the Clippers missed nine of their last 11 shots and lost for the sixth time in seven games, 122-118.
Wilkins, who had played his entire 11 1/2-year NBA career in Atlanta, didn’t take long to adjust, scoring 21 first-half points as the Clippers took a 71-66 lead.
“It was strange,” Wilkins said. “I’d had a Hawks’ uniform for 11 1/2 years, but once I hit the floor all that stuff left me.
“You have to move on, you can’t worry about the past. In a lot of ways, I think this is a very positive move for me in my career.”
Wilkins, 34, whose departure was met with disapproval from Hawk fans and even inspired a cartoon on the editorial page of an Atlanta newspaper, got a warm welcome to L.A.
Introduced last, Wilkins received a standing ovation from the crowd of 15,080, the Clipper’ second largest of the season.
Injured New York Knick guard Doc Rivers, who played with Wilkins at Atlanta before he was traded to the Clippers, thinks the trade will motivate Wilkins.
“He’s hungry. It’s good to see him play like this,” said Rivers, who watched the game from a courtside seat next to Clipper owner Donald Sterling and Wilkins’ agent, Steve Kauffman. “For the first time in a long time he thinks he has to prove something again.
“He really doesn’t, but he probably feels that way. He’s going to do it. He wants to prove the fans that he worth the trade and I think he’s proven that already. L.A.'s a fickle town, it doesn’t take long for them to fall in love with you. They’ll love Dominique because they love flashy scorers, and that’s what he is.”
And he supplied plenty of flash as he made his first three shots and scored 11 points in the first 10 minutes. Wilkins, who brought the crowd to its feet with a reverse scoop layup in the first quarter, also displayed a nice passing touch. He set up teammate John Williams for a layup with a beautiful pass through traffic, but the pass seemed to surprise Williams, who fumbled away the ball.
“I think he makes this team better,” Clipper guard Mark Jackson said of Wilkins. “He’s a Hall of Famer and he just makes everybody better.”
But Seattle All-Star forward Shawn Kemp didn’t let Wilkins steal the show.
Kemp, who had 27 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots, made a blindside block of an attempted dunk by Wilkins in the first half and then dunked at the other end.
Not to be outdone by Wilkins and Kemp, Clipper guard Ron Harper made his first eight shots, including five three-pointers, and scored 27 points.
Harper, who was suspended for a game last week for making negative comments about the team, even said something to Sterling and Rivers as he ran back to play defense after making a three-pointer in the third quarter.
Harper, who has declined public comment since his suspension, had nothing to say after the game.
Leading, 113-109, with 4:57 remaining, the Clippers missed six shots in a row, including three layups, and were outscored, 9-0, as Seattle made four shots in a row and took a 118-113 lead with 2:30 remaining.
The Clippers cut it to 118-115 when Jackson made a hook shot with two minutes left, but Kendall Gill, who had 23 points, answered with a 19-foot jumper for 120-115.
After Wilkins, who had missed three shots in a row, made a layup and a free throw with 22.2 seconds left for 120-118, Kemp made two of four free throws in the final 18 seconds as Seattle (39-14) beat the Clippers (18-35) for the second time in three games this season.
Although the end result was the same, the arrival of Wilkins seemed to energize the Clippers.
“I saw a different Clipper team than I’ve seen in a long time,” Wilkins said. “Guys were complimenting each other out there and excited. It was a game we should have won, but if we play this way against all the other teams down the stretch, we’re going to beat a lot of them. I see a lot of potential.”
* LAKERS WIN: Celtics lose 12th in a row. C3