Stanley Roberts, the Clippers’ big man, might be the team’s biggest disappointment when training camp opens today at UC Irvine.
The seven-foot center, who has battled a weight problem throughout his career, ballooned to more than 300 pounds while recuperating from Achilles’ tendon surgery last December.
How much does Roberts weigh now?
“He weighs too much, that’s what he weighs,” said General Manager Elgin Baylor, who declined to reveal Roberts’ exact weight. “You can quote that.”
Although the Clippers sent Roberts to the Duke weight-loss clinic this summer, he’s overweight and out of shape and won’t be able to participate in the rigorous workouts that new Coach Bill Fitch has planned.
The Clippers are frustrated because, they say, they have done everything except wire Roberts’ jaw. They have sent Roberts, who is due to earn $3 million this season, several letters threatening to suspend him without pay if he is not fit to play by their season-opener Nov. 4 against the Portland Trail Blazers in Yokohama, Japan. Under the collective bargaining agreement, they can take no disciplinary action against him until the start of the regular season.
“We’re very disappointed in Stanley,” Baylor said. “We’ve done everything that we can possibly do to help Stanley and try to get him ready for this season.
“It’s up to Stanley. Stanley has to make the commitment. There’s no reason Stanley should be as overweight and as out of shape as he is. There’s no excuse.”
The Clippers are upset that Roberts didn’t begin playing basketball until a few weeks ago. Although the tendon has healed, Roberts now has bursitis in his right heel, which has slowed his progress.
The Clippers maintain that Roberts hurt his heel because he tried too rush himself into shape instead of easing back into basketball.
“To say he couldn’t do anything all summer because of his Achilles’ . . . he could eat,” Baylor said. “There are a lot of things he could have done to keep his body in shape.”
A junk-food junkie, Roberts was put on a fat-free diet of 1,800 calories a day after entering the Duke clinic on July 10. He left after a week because he was bored, he said.
“I couldn’t adapt very well,” he said. “When I was first there I didn’t lose any weight because I wasn’t into the program.”
He returned to Duke, then left again because of personal problems. Roberts said he couldn’t go to physical therapy because his driver’s license had been suspended. Baylor said that Roberts’ therapist was located across the street.
After Roberts returned to Duke, he said he had an easier time because former Clipper forward John Williams and Washington Bullet center Kevin Duckworth were also there, undergoing treatment.
“I like the Duke program, it was real good,” Roberts said. “I wish I could go back a little longer.”
Roberts, who would not say what he weighs, hopes to be fit by the start of the regular season.
“My goal is to be ready by the start of the season, if they don’t strike,” Roberts said. “And the Achilles’ should be able to take some pressure to where I could play at least half of a game. If I’m not ready to go, I’ll be out there trying, at least.”
Roberts has been working out with Clipper trainer Keith Jones, who plans to have Roberts run in a pool to lessen the impact on his heel.
“His condition isn’t what we expect and certainly not what we want, but it’s not a lost cause by any means,” Jones said. “He knows what he’s got to eat, now we’ve just got to get him on some heavy, heavy exercise, so he can help us when we get started.”
Roberts said he has been frustrated by the injuries.
“You don’t know how frustrating this is,” he said. “With the weight problem and then with the Achilles’ going out on me, it seems like one thing is always the reason that I can’t get to the point where I want to be. I wish I could have come in in a lot better condition. I wish I was ready to go. I know Fitch is going to be on me and Elgin’s going to be on me.
“My dream last season was going to the All-Star game, and 14 games into the season, snap (he was injured). My dream this season was making up for it, but unfortunately, I’m not ready to get back out there and bang yet.
“I want to start living up to my potential and living up to my expectations. I’m tired of everybody talking about the weight.
“I want to be the man in L.A. I want to be the next Magic or the next Kareem. I want to be the foundation for L.A. When everybody thinks L.A, I want them to think Stanley Roberts.”
Forward Tony Massenberg, signed as a free agent in June, tore his groin muscle while working out at UCLA on Tuesday and isn’t expected to participate in drills. He is listed as day to day. . . . New Coach Bill Fitch plans to close workouts to the media for the first weekend of training camp.