Clipper Victory Overshadowed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Clipper center Michael Olowokandi was arrested early Saturday morning at his home and charged with cohabitant abuse, false imprisonment and robbery, police said. He was freed on bail of $50,000 and played perhaps his best game of the season in a 103-72 victory Sunday over the Indiana Pacers at Staples Center.

All of the allegations are felonies, Manhattan Beach Police Sgt. Steve Tobias said. What charges Olowokandi will face will be decided by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

The team learned of Olowokandi's arrest after Saturday's practice. Coach Alvin Gentry said Sunday he was uncertain whether the team would suspend Olowokandi.

This is the second off-court incident for the Clippers in less than a month. Forward Lamar Odom was suspended Nov. 5 for eight games by the league for violating the terms of its antidrug policy. It was Odom's second such suspension in eight months.

"I would like to go on the record as saying that domestic abuse isn't something to make light of," Olowokandi said after starting Sunday's game and scoring 12 points and taking 11 rebounds in 31 minutes. "Whatever has been printed might be blown out of proportion. The truth will come out in due time. What was alleged didn't happen. There are numerous witnesses."

Olowokandi refused to answer further questions.

"We haven't seen a report or a complaint yet, so we're going to reserve comment until more facts are known," said Joe Safety, Clipper vice president of communications.

Added Gentry: "I think it's a personal matter. He regrets the whole incident. I don't know the details. I don't know if everything is completely accurate. I haven't seen the police report or anything. I know as much as you know.

"It's one of those things that nobody wants to be involved with. We don't know all the sides of the story. I think it's hard to suspend him unless you know all the details about what's going on. Obviously, we'll take a look and see how the thing plays out."

Clipper sources said that when Olowokandi returned from the team's trip to play the Nuggets at Denver, a former girlfriend was waiting for him outside his Manhattan Beach home. Olowokandi was said to have attempted to restrain the woman by holding her arms while she was arguing with a third, unidentified person.

Olowokandi was arrested about 3 a.m. Saturday, according to a statement issued by the Manhattan Beach Police Department. He missed practice Saturday at L.A. Southwest College, but the Clippers did not make the reason for his absence known to reporters.

Clipper players refused to comment on Olowokandi's arrest. When Odom was suspended, they showed their support for him by attending a news conference at Staples Center at which Odom admitted to using marijuana.

One team source suggested Sunday that the charges against Olowokandi might be dropped as soon as today.

The news of Olowokandi's arrest overshadowed the Clippers' widest margin of victory of the season. The Clippers led, 53-42, at halftime, then put the Pacers away by scoring the first 13 points of the third quarter. Their lead would eventually grow to 94-56 after Corey Maggette made two free throws with 8:52 left in the game.

Six Clippers scored in double figures, led by reserve guard Quentin Richardson, who had 21 points on seven-of-12 shooting. Richardson made five of eight three-point baskets.

"We were coming off a tough road loss, but we defended our home court and that's what I'm happiest about tonight," power forward Elton Brand said of the Clippers rebounding from a 96-93 loss Friday at Denver.

The Pacers, who won Saturday at Utah, played like a tired team, according to Coach Isiah Thomas.

"Sometimes the schedule beats you, and it beats you bad," Thomas said. "We just didn't have it. There was no juice left in the tank. You can't squeeze blood out of a rock. [The Clippers] had more energy. They were a lot quicker than we were tonight."

The Pacers made only 31 of 93 shots, shot only 12 free throws and committed 21 turnovers en route to their most lopsided loss of the season. Reggie Miller and Austin Croshere led Indiana (10-10) with 12 points apiece.

The Clippers moved within a game of the .500 mark at 8-9.

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Times staff writer Richard Winton contributed to this story.

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