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Clippers Looking to Go Big

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Clippers would like to move Lorenzen Wright back to forward, his natural position. Kevin Duckworth and Dwayne Schintzius will become free agents next week. Stanley Roberts will almost certainly pass on the opportunity to join them on the open market, but nonetheless remains such a weight-and-see proposition that he wears more question marks than the Riddler.

So the Clippers need a center. The Clippers want a center. But that doesn’t mean the Clippers will pick a center when their turn comes today in the NBA draft at No. 14.

More likely, they will look to fill other needs rather than risk a bad reach to fill the most pressing one. So don’t get excited about the impending arrival of Paul Grant or Serge Zwikker.

Those centers probably will be left after Tim Duncan, Tony Battie and Adonal Foyle go early, likely within the top eight. Kelvin Cato could fall after originally being pegged for the Milwaukee Bucks at 10, but that doesn’t mean the Clippers have any interest in someone with a questionable work ethic either, so he probably will keep falling.

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Beyond that, they’d be stretching.

The options will still be plentiful, even if at the risk of duplication. Maurice Taylor could be on the board, or Danny Fortson or maybe even, albeit unlikely, Austin Croshere. All forwards--trying to find playing time at the two deepest positions on the roster.

The backcourt is a more likely target. A history of knee problems means talented Derek Anderson might still be available--"If he was healthy, we’d have him in our top five,” a scout for another team said--but a history of knee problems also probably means the Clippers, too well versed in such matters, will also pass.

The more realistic options:

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* Olivier Saint-Jean. The Frenchman from San Jose State has made a big postseason charge based on his showings at the camps, is a very athletic shooting guard who is also strong enough so that he might be able to play the frontcourt in a small lineup. On the other hand, just what is the Clippers’ level of commitment to Brent Barry, who will be entering his third season in the fall, and to Malik Sealy, who will be a free agent next week?

* Jacque Vaughn. The product of Muir High in Pasadena and Kansas has great speed to push the ball, maybe even enough to go past incumbent Darrick Martin at point guard. As if Pooh Richardson didn’t already know his Clipper run had ended.

* Brevin Knight. See above. More quickness to get down the lane than speed, but the Stanford standout has trouble finishing. And he’s only 5 feet 9.

The Clippers do have one virtual certainty. Roberts can exercise an opt-out clause by the end of the day, but his agent said that won’t happen. Not with Roberts due $3.7 million next season.


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