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Can Buddy System Save Clippers?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Agent David Falk, a known adversary of Clipper owner Donald Sterling, saw his worst nightmare realized when the Clippers surprised everyone by selecting his first high school client, Darius Miles, with the No. 3 overall pick in Wednesday’s NBA draft.

Although he never said so publicly, Falk hoped Miles would end up with any other team but the Clippers before the draft because of the problems he has had getting his players to re-sign with the team under Sterling, including current free agent Maurice Taylor.

Some reports even had Falk considering a European league as an option if Miles was drafted by the Clippers.

But Falk’s viewpoint quickly changed when the Clippers picked another one of his players with their No. 18 pick in DePaul swingman Quentin Richardson, a close friend of Miles. It was as simple as that.

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“This was a very unusual draft, maybe the most unusual in my 26 years in the business,” said Falk, who attended a Clipper news conference for their first-round selections Thursday at Staples Center.

“I think Elgin [Baylor] did a tremendous job. This is a franchise that has been under a lot of criticism for a lot of years . . . Getting Quentin coming in here really changed the equation for Darius. They are much closer than you would ever expect. They really are like brothers. Because [Miles] is so young and Quentin is so mature, I think it will be a very positive influence on him as he adjusts to life in the NBA.”

For Baylor, it was an easy decision to take Richardson because he liked the versatile player all along.

“Quentin is a guy who can play two positions,” Baylor said. “We had him rated pretty high and we were surprised to see him available with our No. 18 pick.”

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Richardson, a Chicago native, has been known for years around the youth summer basketball circuit, where he developed strong bonds to not only Miles but also two players the Clippers picked up in a draft day trade from Orlando, Missouri point guard Keyon Dooling, selected 10th, and second-year swingman Corey Maggette, drafted 13th last season.

“I’m so happy to be with these guys . . . we’re all so cool with each other because all of us are a lot alike,” Richardson said. “We’re outgoing. We get along with others. We don’t think we’re above anybody. We’re just outgoing guys who are willing to sacrifice to win.”

Miles said having Richardson join him with the Clippers was heaven sent because of a friendship that began when he was in East St. Louis and playing on a Chicago-based all-star team.

“I was real quiet and he just put me under his wing right from the start,” Miles said. “He was the McDonald’s all-American and I was just a role player. I was only a shot blocker and a dunker . . . but [Richardson] was the one who started calling me little K.G. [Kevin Garnett].”

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Richardson said he immediately saw Miles’ potential when they began playing together and is proud to see a friend develop into the highest-drafted prep player in NBA history.

“He was real skinny kid . . . tall, wearing glasses, you know a funny-looking guy,” Richardson said of Miles. “He wears glasses now, but then, we didn’t know if he could play or not when they brought him in.

“Once he started playing we saw he could play, but he still was a kid from East St. Louis in a big city like Chicago. . . . He would stay the night at my house whenever he came to town. We got real tight.

“But he’s always been pretty steady with his attitude. . . . He can fit in any type of environment. He gets along with people and that’s always a positive thing when you’re somebody who is going to be in the spotlight like he is going to be.”

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Richardson first met Dooling when the players competed against each other in a summer league game.

“I was 12 when I first played against him,” Dooling said. “He was a talented player who everyone knew about and not too many people knew about me . . . we got real close when we played together on the Junior Olympics.

“Having us together brings an added excitement. We know we are very young and that we’re with the Clippers, a team with not so great of a reputation. But at the same time, we know Rome wasn’t built in a day. . . . [The Clippers] can only get better and what better place to be to develop together.”

Richardson’s oldest friend in the league, Maggette, is now his new teammate. They have known each other since grade school in Chicago.

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“I’ve known Corey since the sixth grade,” Richardson said. “By the time we got to high school in Chicago we knew each other well because we hung out together a lot off the court.”

So after finishing with the worst record in the league last season, the Clippers’ first day after Draft Day 2000 turned out to be a success. Baylor’s expectations are high.

“This is as much talent we’ve ever had,” he said. “We have some terrific athletes on this team. I see good things ahead for us. Now we have to get ready to work.”


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