Falk Line Will Run Through L.A.

First, I'd like to congratulate Anaheim for not giving millions of dollars of taxpayer money to the Vancouver Grizzlies for a training facility, relocation expenses or just to put in their pockets, seeing as how the Griz was about to melt itself back down to expansion status, as soon as it found a sucker, er, new home.

Oh, and congratulations, Memphis, on your prize acquisition! Let's see, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Mike Bibby are gone, and Michael Dickerson is going, so who does that leave? Jason Williams!

Predictably, there were a lot of surprises in Wednesday's teen-dominated NBA draft, but the biggest was that the Clippers were the ones who made out best.

One moment they were looking at an 18-year-old, 224-pound, power-forward-one-day-hopefully, and the next they had Elton Brand, a super good guy who, at age 22, has two years' experience and a 20-10 career average.

There's a downside: Brand comes encumbered with his agent, the dreaded David Falk, who was reportedly not enchanted at seeing his client become a Clipper, having previously vowed to take revenge on them for passing up Bibby with the first pick in 1999 and not signing Maurice Taylor last summer.

Of course, no one else signed Taylor, who had to play for the $2.25-million exception in Houston, which could now drop him back onto the market.

Then there was the Glen Rice saga, in which Falk blasted the Lakers for not appreciating their asset as he delivered Glen to his exciting new opportunity on the Knicks' bench.

Let's just say, so far this hasn't been Falk's best century, not locally, anyway.

For the record, Brand will be a restricted free agent in two summers and unrestricted in the summer of 2004. If Falk is still in the biz, expect to hear a lot from him around then.

In the meantime, the Clippers may have become solid enough to make a run at 41 wins, although the playoffs are a long way off in a conference where No. 8 Minnesota won 47 games (to their 31) last season.

They were already fun, now they're going to be better.

Once Around Lightly, Chicago--Bulls' insiders were calling this General Manager Jerry Krause's last stand, and if so, he's going out guns blazing.

He did the right thing, the imaginative thing and the incredibly gutsy thing, taking not one but two of the prep giants, Tyson Chandler and Eddy Curry and giving up his only bona fide player, Brand, to do it.

If Chandler and Curry both turn out, the Bulls are going to be monsters. Of course, next season, they should be about 10-72, so only owner Jerry Reinsdorf knows if Krause will survive to ride a parade float again.

New Jersey--Before becoming an amiable NBA vice president, Rod Thorn compiled an incredible record as Bulls' general manager, trading for Ronnie Lester after he blew out his knee at Iowa, drafting Quintin Dailey after he was charged with sexual assault and Ennis Whatley and Mitchell Wiggins after their drug incidents.

Thorn is now the Nets' basketball boss (at an incredible $3 million a year, topping all peers), and it's good to see he hasn't lost his touch.

The new Net owners, tired of spending millions for failure, have ordered him to get whatever he can for Stephon Marbury and Keith Van Horn, both of whom will soon be goners.

Compounding an awful situation, Thorn just traded Eddie Griffin for three lesser prospects, Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Brandon Armstrong.

Coach Byron Scott's friends out here aren't crossing their fingers for him any more. They're making plans to have him airlifted out of there.

Vancouver--Having deserted that city and squeezed every dollar out of Memphis, in a bidding war with New Orleans and Anaheim, et al., owner Michael Heisley is now stripping down his team, confident his new fans will tolerate anything for a season or two.

This is a team that needed four seasons to pass the 20-win mark and peaked in year six at 23, after which it was goodbye, Canada.

Now they just traded Abdur-Rahim, a 24-year-old, five-year veteran with career averages of 21 points and 8.2 rebounds for a 20-year-old Spaniard named Pau Gasol, who is 7-0 and works cheaper than Shareef's $12 million a year.

Then late Wednesday they traded Bibby to Sacramento for Williams and Nick Anderson and have been shopping Dickerson, who is closing in on free agency.

Meanwhile, long-winded team President Dick Versace has wisely refrained from going back to coaching, so he won't have to take the fall . . . yet.

Unfortunately, Heisley is not only a carpetbagger but an extremely impatient one, so you can expect him to order Versace to fire Coach Sidney Lowe during next season's run at 70 losses.

By then, Versace won't be able to find any more career suicides and will have to coach himself. Look for him to get canned by the summer of 2003.

I could be off six months or so in these estimates but the rest of it, I'm pretty sure of.

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